30 Days and “Counting”

photoI decided a month ago to stop drinking alcohol for 3 months.How did this come about? Well let me start this story at the very beginning as it was part of a process.

One thing worth mentioning is that there is a wealth of information about everyday life that it is easy to forget if it is not documented.

I have been keeping journals consistently for over a decade now.I had been keeping them longer than that,  off and on, from the time I was in my teens.In recent years, I was inspired to keep a journal by the book “The Artist’s Way”  by Julia Cameron.The book advises the reader to journal three pages of stream of consciousness,  long hand writing first thing in the morning.They are referred to as “Morning Pages” although, for me, they haven’t always taken place in the morning.I haven’t even done them every day, truth be told.I have managed to make them a consistent part of my life, though,  and can’t really imagine my life without them.

In May, I was having some car repairs done.( yes, again ).I took some time to sit by the river downtown while the car was being worked on.It was a lovely spring day that was sunny and breezy.I sat on a bench, pen and notebook in hand, to pray for wisdom and listen.I asked about finances somewhere along the line.I got the intuitive sense that if I gave up drinking alcohol, it would help my finances.This came to me as  something more than just not spending money on alcohol.It felt more like a kind of shift, a lifestyle change.Hmmm.

It didn’t feel restrictive or heavy.It felt more like a different way of doing things.

Let me say this, in my heart of hearts, I do not believe I am an alcoholic.If I am, then it will come out sooner or later.I do not believe I am in denial.I have struggled with the “lifestyle” of drinking.Playing music in bars, working in restaurants, and being married to someone who is in a similar position has set the stage for this.I don’t think that this is uncommon.I also don’t look at booze as ” bad ” so to speak.I compare my situation to what happens when you go to the doctor to get an x-ray.It doesn’t necessarily pose a threat to the patient, but the technician steps out of the room because they are doing this all the time.I am in an enviroment that puts me at risk.

After I received this guidance, it took some time for me to actually try it out in earnest and take it at face value.

Several months ago, I did something called “counting” which was inspired by a book called “Money Drunk,Money Sober”which Julia Cameron co-authored with Mark Bryan.The practice of counting is writing down ever penny you spend, what you spend it on , as well as every penny you earn .After a month, you begin to get a very clear picture of what you have been doing with your money.I did it during June and July for 4 weeks.This was not earth shattering for me but it was very revealing.For one thing, I earned more than I thought and I spent more than I thought.What did I spend it on? Well, the number one thing, besides bills like mortgage and utilities, was food.When I say food, I mean groceries, the stuff you prepare at home.The second was alcohol.Now, I didn’t separate going out alcohol from staying home alcohol.Because I was I was doing this exercise, I was more mindful of what I was spending out.It was still more than I expected.I wasn’t spending as much money on gas for the car, clothes, dinners out and/ or entertainment.In fact, the money spent on alcohol was rivaled what I spent om food.Whoa.

Where does this leave things? Well, food is a tough one because I need to eat.I buy the food for my household ( my husband and I ) and I do enjoy cooking and eating healthy food.Food is not only about sustenance for me.It’s also about connection and creativity.Now the question is, is there another way to find that? Have I been squandering my creativity in one place? I work with food and drink and have for many years.I also connect with friends in this way. Actually, from a caloric point of view, alcohol consumption can be eye opening. One leisurely Sunday, I took note of what I drank over the course of a day and the calories they contained.   900 Calories!!    I got a good scare, that’s for sure. After that, I decided to hop on the wagon for 30 days.It was a good thing, at the time, but it only seemed to scratch the surface.

As I pondered abstaining from alcohol, I looked at different articles on the internet written about how sobering up changed their lives.I am not talking about the standard AA ” bottom out” kind of experience but more of a health and wellness variety.In other words, did you notice physical changes, better sleep, more productivity?.Let me take this time to say, I have nothing against Alcoholics Anonymous.It is an excellent program that has helped many lives the world over.I just didn’t see it as a fit for me.

As a result of my search, I stumbled upon Hello Sunday Morning, an online support group more focused on the idea of, as they put it, ” changing our relationship with alcohol”.This seemed to make sense to me so I decided to check it out.It centers around the concept of taking a voluntary break from drinking for a period of time, like 3 months or a year,writing about your experience and connecting with others doing the same thing.I decided to give it a try for 3 months.The people involved in this seemed to be predominately from Australia and the UK.Some are heavy drinkers looking to quit for good.Others, like myself, are doing it to experience a new way of life and don’t see themselves as “Tee total” forever.May I also mention that I am not recieving any endorsement from this group.It is just something I am doing.

It dawned on me how all these years I have been looking for something like this.It’s one thing to be in serious enough shape to consider rehab but what about the rest of us? How about those who just want to drink less? I know that this can be the subject of great debate. There are some who don’t believe there is a such thing as moderate drinking, All or nothing seems to be the norm.In sharp contrast to this, I see myself as being a part of the population whose needs are not being addressed.

It has been 30 days since I have had alcohol and I feel pretty good I am, in fact, sleeping better, saving money, and discovering how to socialize without it.I have been recording my spending and earning, though nor quite as diligently as before.The most troubling expense for me, aside from alcohol, would be groceries and that seems to be roughly where it had been before.Although there is always room for improvement,I can live with that for now.

The hardest thing about this process is looking at all the things I would like to accomplish and knowing that there is only so much I can do in each day.In order to be at my best, I have to take time for me. When I don’t take time, or have time, for the things I enjoy, alcohol serves as a quick fix, or makeshift alternative.I now seeking out the things I enjoy that don’t involve alcohol.It could be a good book, dancing, writing, visiting with a good friend, or finishing a long postponed project.My creative side needs more attention.That is becoming more and more obvious.

I am only  1/3 of the way finished with this journey but I feel as though there is still so much to learn.I am not in a HUGE hurry to get there but, yes, I am looking forward to having a glass of wine again, no joke. Time goes by so fast and I want to have something to show for the 3 months.For now, I am open to all the richness that this experience has to give.

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Drinking the Kool Aid

photoThis has been a subject I have wanted to post about for months.

 

When people use the phrase” Drinking the Kool Aid ” , they are making a reference to the Jim Jones cult suicides that took place in Guyana in 1978 where followers knowingly drank poisoned Kool Aid. This tragically resulted in the death of over 900 people.I can vaguely remember this incident on the news.For me, being pretty young, it remains hazy along with Watergate, Patti Hearst,and the gas crisis.I can remember the atmosphere of what seemed to be tumultuous times.I can remember my mother saying how Nixon was a  “crook” ( she was a regestered Republican by the way) and how Patti Hearst was ” brainwashed” into her invovement with a bank robbery.As a kid, looking up to my parents and other adults, it made me feel like the world had gone crazy.I guess it had and still is.

Nowadays, when someone talks about drinking the Kool Aid, it’s means stepping over a line into some kind of collective insanity.It means being baptized, if you will, into a way of perceiving the unreasonable as completely acceptable.It means taking the plunge into “the new normal”.

After mentioning to a friend and co- worker about my facination with the Jim Jones incident, he turned me on to the Source Family Documentary.I didn’t know anything about this early 70’s California group so I was eager to check it out.With this bunch, there were no mass murders or heavy drugs.They preached the gospel of health food, yoga, and self awareness with some and marijuana sexual impropriety thrown in.I am sure people did feel disillusioned by it all but it lacked the gore and horror of the Manson Family, Waco, or Guyana.

It’s funny how when you mention something cult related, many act like, “Pfff, stupid people.I would never do anything like that.” It’s relatively rare to find anyone who has been closely involved in cult activity.The major consensus is that no one would ever find themselves in such a compromising situation unless they were completely guileless and naive.

Think again.

Something that really stuck in my mind about the Jim Jones,” People’s Temple ” was that they originally had an air of legitimacy.For one thing, they were very racially integrated, which was huge at that time.They were politically active and they were speaking to people’s concerns.Remember, this was during and right after the war in Vietnam, assasinations, and major social upheaval racially, sexually, and socially.

The Source Family was a outgrowth of Jim Baker’s( note Baker, not Bakker) hugely successful Source Family Restaurant on the Sunset Strip.Let’s face it, if anything speaks loudly, it’s money.This restaurant hosted many celebrities and was featured in restaurant trade magazines.

So where did it all go wrong?

I don’t know.Maybe abuse of power, egos, lack of integrity, any number of things.What really spoke to me, about the Jim Jones thing in particular, was how committed people in the group were to one another.It wasn’t all about the leader.This was their community.These were friends who may have had similar experiences, beliefs, goals, and ideas.They didn’t want to let their friends down.

Think about that.

Although being involved in bonafide cult activity may seem very remote to most of us, I believe we have all been involved in a group of well meaning individuals that have exhibited similar behavior.Think of the family that looks the other way at a loved one’s addiction and creates a whole support system and coping mechanism around that.The boss who bullies their employees by making unreasonable demands that everyone complies with in order to keep the job.Of course we see this in religious institutions but also in street gangs and organized crime.We even see it in friendships and intimate relationships.”Drinking the Kool Aid” means you are doing something that no one would even consider, even yourself, if they weren’t as closely involved as you are now.

Even if cult involvement seems a little off your radar,I am sure unhealthy behavior is something you are familiar with.In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it is commonplace.What constitutes unhealthy behavior anyway?

Here are a couple thoughts to ponder.Are you involved with people who are very insular and rarely interact outside their group? Can you introduce new ideas? Are they threatened by your personal growth? Do they allow for disagreement and/or dissent? Can you voice your concerns openly without fear of ridicule, intimidation, or shame? Can you choose to reduce contact with the individual or group harmoniously or will that create an incident?

One thing that bears mentioning is that group energy is very powerful.Unity and solidarity are wonderful things and we can benefit from being part of a group, community, partnership, or relationship.It is a means of protection and support.Not every family is 100% functional ( I wonder if there is such a thing ), not every job is a warm jovial place where are input is welcomed and applauded, and not every relationship is without a fear, jealousy, or suspition.We can’t be expected to ditch our family, job, and primary relationships just because they fail to meet our every expectation. Our government has problems but are we ready to overthrow it? Drinking the Kool Aid is a different matter,though.

When you ” drink the Kool Aid” so to speak, you have already shut down the internal warning system we all have that told you things were going terribly wrong.You already gave up the fight and stopped asking questions.You convinced yourself that you no longer had any choice.When the few survivors of the Guyana massacre were interviewed, they viewed it as more of a murder than suicide.Once the followers were that isolated and far from home,they were trapped.The question is, then, when did the real loss of power begin?

During times of uncertainty, people are more likely to give up some personal freedoms in exchange for a sense of security.This is nothing new.We see it today with the rise of radical religious fundamentalist groups.We hear it echoed on angry talk radio.They call for a quick solution to the ” problem” meanwhile the problem is us.I am always suspicious when I hear leadership talk in terms of ” us and them” as if the “them” are people we have nothing in common with. ” They ” are only vaguely human.

In Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way” she describes something closer to our everyday experience.She uses the term “crazymakers” to describe people who are master manipulators that create chaos and distraction in our lives that cause us to lose focus on our own pursuits.These are the one’s that call you for help when you are about to go on an important job interview or much needed vacation.They seem to have absolutely no regard for your valuable time and their timing seems impeccable.With crazymakers it is necessary and possible to set boundaries.It may take some re conditioning on our part and that responsibility lies with us.

You may ask,” why are you writing this? what does this mean to me?” I suppose this is a dilemma that I face daily.Crazymakers, so to speak, seem to be a mainstay in my life.I soon as I seperate from one there seems to be another waiting in the wings to take their place.Crazy people can be charismatic and inspiring as well as frustrating.If that were not the case, people would not follow them.We all have had that friend or loved one that was fun to be around and, perhaps, pushed us to do and be more than we thought was possible.Then again, they left us exhausted and sometimes angry.Today, I am more in touch with my own needs and personal convictions and have a easier time recognizing what my limitations are.I know when to say no.

Is it wrong to want to break with the rest of the world’s ideas in pursuit of a different kind of society? I don’t think so.I think there has to be a ponit you ask yourself,” is this what I signed up for?” If it goes against your core ideals and beliefs, it’s time to bow out while you still are in a position to do so.

In addition to hearing the term,” drinking the Kool Aid”, I also have heard the term,” I didn’t drink the Kool Aid “.

Translation :  I saw what was going on but I didn’t buy into it.

We can’t always stop the insanity  going on around us but we don’t have to invest ourselves in it.We can’t always prevent others from being beguiled by a magnetic, sometimes maniacal person or being burned as a result of a unsolvable conflict but we can protect ourselves.We can be a witness.We can be the voice of sanity.

So don’t pick up the poison, no matter what form it takes.It may be easier now than later.

 

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No Sense Makes Sense

photoIn the wake of Robin Williams suicide, I am compelled to contribute my thoughts.Yeah,  I am sure by now your a little tired of reading about this subject.That’s alright, I am too but I need to write this anyway.

Williams was a true genius.He could transition from mapcap lunacy to thoughtful insight at the drop of a hat.His comedy had a rare quality of letting the viewer peek behind the curtain occasionally to see the softer, sometimes sadder side and it was believable. He revealed the pain behind the playfulness, the tears behind the laughter.

Watching an recent interview, I was astonished by how profoundly sane this man sounded.Even though he would interject with various characters, voices, and facial expressions, he sounded intelligent and lucid.When he was asked about the on going war in Iraq, he appeared to be sincerely concerned and yet exasperated by the whole situation.We live in a world where we  have been doing the same things over and over again, for centuries, expecting a different result. That is crazy. Robin Williams. like many comedians, was a court jester who used his humor to make us laugh and because of this, he had a license to address uncomfortable truths.

What a lightning rod he was!!

Comedy is most effective when it serves as an antidote to the pain of life.Strangely enough, I had a dream the other night where I was at a party with some people I work with.I looked out the window into  the street and witnessed a breathtaking bolt of lightning hit the ground and then catch fire.When I woke up, I looked at a dream dictionary online to find the meaning.One source said that lightning represents a sudden insight and awakening and/ or a shocking turn of events beyond our control.Lightning is powerful and unpredictable. Imagine being a sensitive person who is constantly bombarded with stimulus from their environment.It can be uplifting at times but also draining.Powerful energy like that needs a place to land.It has to be grounded.A lightning rod is grounded to the earth. I am sensitive myself and I am constantly being reminded how important it is to stay grounded.For me, this means staying connected physically to the earth by spending time outdoors, being exposed to sunlight and moonlight, breathing in the freshest air possible, and even walking around in bare feet when as I can.This is an essential piece of the puzzle that is missing in our high tech society.To the modern world, this seems so simple, how could it possibly make a difference? It doesn’t make sense.Well, it doesn’t have to make sense as long as it works.

It doesn’t make sense for someone like Robin Williams to take his own life.He had millions of fans worldwide who adored him.He had colleagues who respected and admired him.He had family members that probably depended on him.How could this happen? As someone who has, and still does struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, I know what it is to be in a similar position.To the outside world, it doesnt make sense.Nevertheless, when you are in a place of despair, the only thing that make sense, truly makes sense,  is ending it. Period. Think about the nature of addiction.To an addict, it makes perfect sense to spend their last dollar on a cocaine binge.Recently one of my dear, recovering friends shared a story about  partying with another guy one night who said he couldn’t buy more drugs because his rent was due the next day.To that my friend replied, ” Rent??? Rent is tomorrow!! “.We both roared with laughter at the telling of this.It revealed a sobering fact. When you are an addict, the addiction is doing the talking.The addiction is calling the shots.You can’t reason with an addiction.Once you are in the throws of such a thing, you are completely powerless and it’s only the grace of God that will keep you alive.

There are two things that infuriate me about the way society deals with depression.The first is that we should never be depressed.We should never be sad or even angry.Actually, why even have feelings or emotions at all? It just gets in the way.It’s a major inconvieniece.Snap out of it.

The truth is, in my opinion, it’s okay to feel sad.It’s essential to allow yourself to grieve a loss or acknowledge pain,  disappointment, or resentment.Sad is not bad.Bitter is as important as salty, sweet, spicy, and sour.When working together, all these components create rich flavor.We live in a time when people crave more and more sugar. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) We want a quick fix and a happy ending to every story.Life doesn’t always happen that way.In fact, experiencing a time of disillusionment and despair can be like a rite of passage.A “dark night of the soul”,  if you will, that can lead to a place of more meaning, gratitude, and purpose.Elizabeth Lesser’s book , “Broken Open”  does a fine job of arguing this point. She shares powerful examples, some deeply personal, of failure, tragedy , and loss and the gifts they can bring if we are open to them. Still,as a society, we don’t always have the patience to endure that part of the process.

Here is the second.

I realize that severe depression is a little different.I get it.It can be debilitating.What then? Reaching out to a friend,talking to a councilor,or attending a support group can be a huge help.Medication may be recommended in some cases.Okay, got it, but this is what makes me angry.

What about food? No one ever seems to ask, “What are you eating?

Your brain, my brain, everyone’s brain needs quality food to function.When depressed, some reach for unhealthy foods while others stop eating all together.Unfortunately, this is when we need nutrients the most.I realize that there are various books on this subject and I am not completely alone in this matter but by and large, this viewpoint is ignored.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered a troubled soul whose diet was abysmal at best.I am talking about loads of sugar, processed food, caffeine,you name it.And  what about water? Are you kidding? Not everyone is quite as reckless.There are those who eat fairly well but are they eating what they should for their specific needs? Are they getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids? B vitamins? Do they have a food allergy?.It is astonishing what havoc an allergic reaction, for instance, can create in the body.Something so tiny and insignificant as a nut or mold spores can create such a complex immune response in one person while it does nothing to another.I, personally, can eat peanuts and shellfish all day long without incident while for someone else,  it is life threatening.I used to think I had to avoid all dairy products until I realized it was lactose that was causing me trouble and not casein.I can tolerate some cheeses and not others.Go figure.For me, there has been a lot of trial and error.Look, I am not a nutritionist so I can’t diagnose anyone, not even myself, but I have learned from my personal experience how food can affect mood.Unfortunately, in the case of depression, this is usually a last resort.

It doesn’t make sense does it?

I will tell you what also doesn’t make sense, the far reaching impact of a seemingly tiny act of kindness.A kind word of encouragement, a phone call, a hug, or even a simple, “I hear you” at a time when no one seems to be listening can mean the world to someone who desperately needs it.It can also be the difference between life and death.

Another thing that bothers me, while I am on the subject, is how hard performers and artists work to maintain their level of excellence and how little it is appreciated.For someone like Robin Williams, it appeared effortless but I am sure it wasn’t.It takes years and years of practice, experimenting, rejection, revision, as well as countless hours pacing the floor waiting for the phone to ring.This is something even the greats strugggle with. Uncertainty is something that even a talent as famous and sucessful as Robin Williams had to grapple with.

Again,it doesn’t make sense.

There is one thing that is beginning to make sense to me, as I write is this.

I have been guilty of wanting to understand everything.I want guarantees.I want to know how, exactly, it’s all going to work out before I make a move.This is poison.It paralyzes you.When you analyze you paralyze.

Insight doesn’t always come about by searching or reasoning.It can be like a bolt of lightnining.

Thanks,Robin.Thanks for all the laughter.Thanks for all the hard work.Thanks for showing us earthlings that you are more human than we thought.Most of all thanks for giving me the ability stop being so damn hard on myself (at least for today) and accept that I am not alone.Even the brightest stars fight the same fears and demons.I wish you could have come out of the other side of this despair without taking your life but maybe we wouldn’t have paid attention.Again, No Sense Makes Sense.

I love you.

Rest in Peace.

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Saying Goodbye

photo 2

I  have decided to put my dog Janet put to sleep.Her health is clearly declining.How do you know that you have done all you can do? How can you tell “it’s time”? This would seem to be a painful dilemma.I’ve been through this before and I wonder if it can be different. Is there another way to approach this?

At this moment she is resting though she does not seem entirely peaceful. Her breathing seems labored.I don’t want her to suffer.Part of me wants to drive down to the vet this instant and do the deed. Not unlike ripping a bandage off a wound, quick and simple.The other part of me will see her lift her head,  looking suddenly alert and think  ” maybe she is improving”.Who am I kidding?

I am going to miss her.The truth is, I already miss her because a part of her is already gone.

I knew several months ago where this was all going.Given her age, I opted for medication over surgery.I tried changes in diet, extra vitamin C, and fish oil.I have tried to make her comfortable.We took rides in the car  while I was running errands.I took long naps cuddling with her.I started to cook meals for her.I wanted, mostly, for her to know that I love her.

What am I afraid of facing here? I think that I am reluctant to acknowledge change.Life is moving on and so is Janet  but that’s not really it. It’s me. I am different. I have changed.After experiencing the death of so many loved ones you would think that I would know the drill by now.This time is different, though.I don’t want to share too much of this.I don’t want to have to explain or justify myself.This is my pain.However,  I believe that Janet will always be with me.How can she not be when the love I have for her is so alive? Grief is a very individual process.For me, the hardest part of it is not losing someone but the perspective it gives you.You can never see your life quite the same way again.It can feel lonely but at the same time it can feel like a treasure inside you.

A couple months ago, I wrote about Janet’s illness in a post called  ” Future Now”. It is always ” now” and now has elements of the past,  present, and future all wrapped up into one.While I write this, she is besides me but my mind is already thinking about her passing.I also see her in my mind’s eye, voraciously chomping on her ball in the back yard, dropping it to the ground, stomping her paws impatiently while she waits for me to throw it again.I see the emaciated, timid creature that I brought home 11 years ago after I approached her “owner” about letting me have her.It is heartbreaking and poignant that she is almost at the same weight that she was when we found her.She is leaving our lives much the same way she came into it.

Yes, okay, it’s time.

It was a little over a year ago when we adopted a second dog, Beulah.I had wanted to just keep everything “as is” but life is always changing.I didn’t think the Janet was sick but she could have been and I didn’t realize it.I just knew it was time to adopt a second dog so we took the plunge.The older I get, the more I can appreciate living in the moment.Each moment is unique,  informed by the past,  inspired by the future. ( I am going to tweet that! )Once you know, you have got to go with it.

For almost a week I have been struggling with a sore ankle. I don’t know how I did it but I believe it is a resurfacing of an old injury from years ago.It has forced me to spend as much time as I can off my feet.The irony is that it has forced me to slow down.I mean literally forced me.This made it easier to postpone various tasks in favor of staying in and consequently, spending time with Janet.Being home, it’s impossible to deny her condition.Being somewhat immobile, I can’t distract myself as easily by keeping busy.

I sat down next to Janet and told her, “If you want to go, it’s okay.If you want to stay let me know.” I prayed to God, “Please let me know if this is a mistake.” It’s probably not, but…

Maybe a new part of my life is being birthed in the midst of the sorrow.One can only hope.

 

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Alterations

photoI have been switching from my winter to summer wardrobe this week.That means taking summer stuff out of the attic where it is stored and packing away the winter stuff for next season.It seems a little late to be doing it but the weather has been so unpredictable these days.When I do this, I take time to re-evaluate what I am actually using, what I need to donate, and what I may need.It can be a pleasant surprise to see what I have packed away and forgotten I had.This time around I came across a couple skirts that needed taking in so I decided to try my hand at a few simple alterations.Let it be known that I am no seamstress.I have no formal sewing training and very little experience.Nevertheless, these were not expensive items and if I wasn’t wearing them, what’s the difference?

About 10 years ago, a woman I worked for gave me a sewing machine.She was a whiz at making her own clothes, curtains, you name it.She told me that she didn’t have any training either but just started doing things and taught herself.To see her designs, you could never tell.She encouraged me to try my hand at it.For me it was more of a creative opportunity.Looking back I can see the machine was a very generous gift.

I have heard it said that you learn by doing.When I first got the machine, I used it to customize some T shirts and hem some pants.Yes, it was a little ragged but that was kind of the idea.Somewhere along the line I packed the machine away and didn’t pull it out for years.At my husband’s urging, I set up the machine at our dining room table( if you could call it that, we barely ever dine there) and left it set up.He thought that this way I would be more likely to use it.He was right.

The idea of altering something to fit you specifically is almost a lost art these days.For the most part, unless it’s an expensive suit or dress,  we just pull a piece of clothing off a rack in a store, try it on,  and expect it to look amazing.If it doesn’t, we may think there is something wrong with us or the clothing but we generally don’t invest time to alter it or have it altered.It is just supposed to fit.

I have a quote posted on my wall by George Bernard Shaw that says, “Life is not about finding  yourself, it is about creating yourself” I have often tried to find a tried and true pathway to my goals but it is, many times, something you have to take time to carve out.You may have to grow into it.You may grow out of it.You make take another’s experience to heart and learn from it but it will never quite match your own.Why is it then that I wish someone would just hand me some kind of formula for my life when I know deep down, I would end up creating my own in the end?

I have had an idea for a book on health, fitness, and wellness for quite a long time but it is finally something I am taking steps toward doing.Baby Steps.I have always been fascinated by different styles of diet and exercise.I can’t say that I subscribe to any one method fully although I have reaped the benefits of my interest and participation in such things.That was the primary motivation for practicing yoga as well as getting certified to teach.It was also what inspired me to train for and complete my first marathon.Writing a book, for me, requires compiling all of the lessons I have learned over the years as a result of personal study, experimentation, trial and error.Perhaps this idea stems from a desire for a book that I wish I had during my journey of self discovery.I think it also reflects a desire to serve and help others.This is a dimension of my life that I never really understood before.It is beginning to take shape.

Writing can require alterations.You start with ideas, raw material, and then trim and shape them into something more focused and cohesive, something that fits.

Sometimes you have to take things in, sometimes you have to let things out,and sometimes you have to cut something off and let it fall away.

Speaking of what fits, I am stopping now so I can fit in a workout at the gym before teaching yoga tonight.I am cutting it short.More on this subject in future posts.

Goodbye for now….

 

 

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Hey Random Stranger

Here I am thinking of what I would say to me…..if I wasn’t me.

GetAttachment

A four leaf clover

 

I finally completed my first marathon.( that is one positive thing to report).It was supposed to be in December but the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis was cancelled on account of  bad weather.I originally thought I would do New Orleans but, lo and behold, it was Nashville this past weekend.My initial goal was to finish, which I did.Was I happy with my time? Well,it wasn’t anything to write home about, a modest   4:57:02. Next time, I hope to improve.I am impressed with myself that I followed my instincts, hydrated and fueled properly, and didn’t injure myself. It was a stunning spring day with full sun.The down side to this was by about mile 14 , it was beginning to feel a little warm out there.I felt like I was starting to bake.There was a girl not far from MetroCenter that I passed and though she seemed visibly younger and in decent shape,  she was limping painfully.I thought,” Uh, oh.Note to self…” Aside from sore quads, I finished the race unscathed.

One thing you realize when running a marathon is that you are not alone.There are some who are faster, some who are slower, but you are certainly NOT ALONE.I was waiting about 40 minutes in the cue just to get started.Lots of people run marathons.There were more runners doing the half marathon from what I could see but there were all kinds of people there.I even passed a sweaty white Elvis on the way ( pretty impressive).I had read somewhere that I should have my name written on my person somewhere but I didn’t.That’s okay, the spectators had it figured out.They held up signs that said ” GO RANDOM STRANGER”.That was me.

Now that I am back in town, I am in the midst of a personal crisis.I have to meet with my boss tomorrow about a complaint and I am not taking it well.It is the second one in a few weeks.What am I doing wrong? It isn’t like I am not trying.Do I like my job? Sometimes. I try to be conscientious and work hard. Most times I am just glad it pays my bills( barely).I think I am being found out.This is a bigger dilemma than just my job.It is my life.At the present moment, the things I am most passionate about are not what’s keeping a roof over my head and food on the table.I have been trying to work it out but I feel like I am on borrowed time.

I am angry, deep down.Am I angry at my boss? Not really.I can see her side.Hey, if momma is not happy,  aint nobody happy.I get it. I guess I am angry at God.

God what am I doing wrong?

Why am I stuck in this place? Where is the open door? What is the solution?   

I realized at that moment that I didn’t have any faith for my situation. None at all.I seem to be hitting the wall.I have been in this place time and time again and I have yet to overcome it.It is like seeing the marker for mile 20 and wondering how I am ever going to make it to the finish line.

So okay, what would it be like if I was talking to another person? What if the random stranger really was me?

For one thing,I am not alone.Everyone goes through a period of failure, confusion, discontent and doubt.Most times, it is the segway to something better.It can’t last forever.Keep moving forward.

At this moment I am on my porch and my cat is sittng besides me.We are trying to make her an outdoor cat.Why? Because she has destroyed countless items and furniture by marking them.Yes, I have tried all the usual remedies for removing the scent but she finds new things to destroy.Today was the last straw.She doesn’t want to be an outdoor cat, though.The neighbor’s cat bullies her.What’s odd is that they look like twins.Same size, same color, everything.

I guess we are in a similar place.It reminds me of what a coworker told me years ago. “Anne, ” he said, “I feel like you haven’t been able to piss and mark your territory, you know what I mean?” I think I do now. We can’t help but to want to mark our territory but it may not be ours to mark and yet still don’t want to go outside.

My comfort zone,  if there was such a thing,  is shrinking.

One thing I learned from my marathon training was that you can’t push through ” the wall”. You can only dismantle it, brick by brick, moment by moment, and step by step.

So okay random stranger, what now?

RUN YOUR OWN RACE

Take a step.Do something you love.Set a goal.Think of what you want( not what you don’t want).Do something everyday towards your goal.Anything is better than nothing.

For me, writing is energizing and empowering.Sometimes I think ” who is reading this? how can it matter?”Then again, it’s something.Something Real.I am bearing witness to my truth.That is important AND significant.So many times I read something or watch a movie and think, ” this isn’t real.who does this speak to? not me.” Maybe what I write can speak to someone else.

I haven’t written in a while but your going to be hearing a lot from me.For the moment you, dear readers, are going to be my stand in for a life coach.

Being done with a race can be a bit of a let down.I fondly remember the training days as well as the race day and it is something I feel a slight ache for.I WILL do it again, though not next week or anything.

 I am reminded of what another spectator sign said,” If a marathon was easy it would be called YOUR MOM”

Nice!

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New To Me

photoAs it turned out, in spite of how indifferent I was to the outcome and/or spectacle or the 2014 Super Bowl,yours truly was one of four winners of a Super Bowl pool that was going on at work.This meant I had extra, unexpected cash.I made the decision that this winning must be dedicated to something other than bills or necessities.It would be for a dress.Ah, yes.

I had something picked out already.I saw it last week at a trendy boutique and it was on sale.SOLD.After making that purchase, I had some cash left over.I didn’t hesitate.I went to troll the aisles of the local thrift stores.

This kind of shopping serves a duel purpose for me.It’s economical as well as rewarding.Strangely enough, I feel like it gives these items a new life, a second chance.I know there are some that would frown on this sort of thing.Someone elses discarded stuff?I can hear it now, ” Do you have some kind of a poverty mentality? Don’t you believe in abundant life, a benevolent universe? Do you feel unworthy?”  NO.I feel joy whenever I see a piece of clothing, an appliance, a book, etc that is of exceptional quality waiting to be discovered.Perhaps I am reading too much into this( I usually do) but it makes me think of people around us, or even ourselves for that matter,  who are in the same position.We may feel passed over in our lives.”How did I get here?” we wonder.

Well, how does something end up on a thrift store rack?Someone may have gone through their belongings and decided that they had some stuff that was no longer useful to them.I emphasize that because just because you have a belonging that you are not using, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful to another person.Maybe you bought a new couch.Perhaps you have things that were “outgrown” as is the case with children’s clothing. Maybe you lost weight and wear a smaller size.It could be a book you have already read and don’t see yourself reading again.You may feel the need to give away items after the end of a relationship.On a more somber note, this can happen as a result of death.

In this way, it is like the cycle of life.Not everything has to be “brand new” for it to be appreciated and/or meaningful.

When I shop for previously owned items, I get a charge that is not quite present when shopping  for new items.I see possibilites.I am willing to take chances.I may even buy something that is not right for me but I have a hunch it’s perfect for someone else.When it comes to music, I have never stopped listening to vinyl LP’s.Sometimes I will even purchase a cassette that I can only play in the tape deck in my car.Lately I have been listening to U2’s “Wide Awake in America” as I ride around town.It’s remarkable how something so inexpensive and random like that can brighten your day, or someone elses.The only problem with this is that if you are not careful, you may end up with a bunch of “stuff”.That is why I have a few guidelines.

First, I consider the what I am looking for.For instance, It may be something specific like a wool sweater, a food processor, a pair of black slacks.In this way, I can stay focused and don’t get distracted by all the other things I may see.Second, I don’t ever buy something just because it is cheap.If I don’t need it, I am not buying it PERIOD.Third, once I buy something, I try to simultaniously get rid of something I am not using very much.This one usually relates to clothing.One last thing to bear in mind, there is no use in having something if you don’t use it or have somewhere to put it.

I realize that whatever we may be looking for in life is actually looking for us.The question is, are we ready for it?Have we made time and space for it? For several months, I have been in the process of clearing out and reorganizing.This is yet another continuation of my previous posts,  “Making Time” and ” Creating Space”.I am reminded about something Cheryl Richardson said about how when you take care of your finances responsibly,you are sending a message to your subconscious that you are able to handle more.I believe this can be applied to relationships, possessions, and/or opportunities.

There are days when I walk through a thrift store in sheer amazement over all the great stuff I find.Other days, I see nothing special. Then again, someone else can find exactly what they are searching for.It’s a timing thing.It’s also a very individual thing.

That is why this kind of shopping speaks to me on a personal level.

It’s symbolic.The very item we are looking for may be waiting for us,  gathering dust on a shelf next to a bunch of “junk”, waiting to be discovered.It could be something that another person found insignificant and it and yet it means so much to us.Maybe there are times when we could feel unwanted and passed over.Maybe we feel like our talents and abilities are nothing special.Then again, who is to say that we are not exactly what another is seeking?There is a saying, I don’t know who said it, “There is a supply for every need.” Whoever did has probably spent time trolling the aisles in a thrift store.

Just because we are not shiny and brand new doesn’t mean we aren’t sought after. Just because we have blemishes,made mistakes,and felt used doesn’t mean we aren’t valuable.

Now if you readers will excuse me, It’s time to reorganize my closet.

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Future Now

photo (6)As I write this, my beautiful dog Janet is resting close besides me.She has been my loving companion for most of her 14 years.I found out a couple weeks ago that she has a tumor in her bladder.This does not come as a complete surprise.She has shown signs of health problems for the last couple months.I have opted to use anti-inflamatory medication at this time but given her age, I will not be seeking out surgery for her.This is the first animal of mine that I was given the luxury of time.Every other one of my dog and cat “children” were in crisis situations where I had to make a painful decision right then and there.

Many of us have said, “If only I knew sooner” or “If only I had more time.” Now I have a little of both.The dilemma is, how do I make the most of it?

This brings up another conundrum for me.We are encouraged to live life in the present.The past is gone, the future may never come, so live in the present.(I don’t know who said it but it makes good sense.)Here’s something to consider.What if, like me, you are intuitive.You are sensitive to what the future may hold.You may not be able to find lost children or pick the winning lottery numbers but you definitely get strong “gut feelings” or intuitive” hits”.Like me, you have learned they are reliable.Instead of blowing them off, you listen.How do you honor what your intuition is telling you about the future while staying grounded in the present?

When I wrote my first blog post, “Animal Shelter Reality Check”, I was struggling with whether or not to adopt a second dog.Janet was a huge part of this consideration.I wasn’t really sure if I was ready for a second dog and I was enjoying the comfortable place I was in.I knew it couldn’t be forever though.Now I can see my instincts were spot on.

Dealing with a dog is one thing but what about a human being?I have had this sense with family members, too.Granted they were older and it wasn’t “out of the blue” but I still had to honor these feelings.I am not saying that there is no hope and that every health challenge ends in death.Actually, not every intuitive”hit” is for something that serious.Sometimes it can be for something lighter or more pleasant.

Have you ever met someone and knew that you were going to be friends?Have you ever met two people and thought, ” they should be friends” or ” they would make a good couple”? Sometimes it would seem just like common sense, or better yet, paying attention.My husband and I have a friend, Billy, that works at Gruhn’s Guitars in Nashville.Before that he was in a job situation that he struggled with.I knew eventually he would end up at Gruhn’s.He belonged at Gruhn’s.It didn’t matter to me that there weren’t any job openings at the time, I knew that is where he was headed.Sure enough, he eventually found a position and has been there for quite a few years now.

In Florence Scovel Shinn’s book, “The Game of Life and How To Play it”, she says that intuition does not explain how, it simply points the way.

Isn’t that the truth. We get a piece of information or, inspiration if you will, and we may toss it out because it just doesn’t fit into our present circumstances.Like the lost earing I wrote about a couple posts ago, we get only a piece of the puzzle and it seems useless.We may be tempted to give up or discard it.DON’ T

There are two things to consider here.One is taking action and the other is not taking action.They can be equally as distressing. If there is a step you should take, do it.It may be very simple and seemily insignificant.Do it anyway.You will feel better.If there is no action to take, maybe it is just something to be aware of for the future.That can be even more daunting and we may be tempted to force an outcome.DON’T.Either way, you may not want to tell other people.You may want to just file that information in your mind.

One thing that is very important, which may go without saying, is to always acknowledge your feelings.You may not be able to act on these feelings in the present moment but they are still important.I imagine we all know someone who is highly sensitive and intuitive but a little unstable( at least I do).They may immediately say, “this person is no good” or “I have this great idea” but they don’t know how to handle that information.If you get the sense that someone’s intentions are questionable, you can keep that in mind, take action to protect yourself, and they usually will show there colors in the end.There is no reason to fly off the handle making seemingly unreasonable accusations.If you have a great idea, it may take others time to come around to your way of thinking.Don’t expect everyone to jump on board all at once.They may not see what you see.

Intuition is a gift and a skill.We all have it.Some don’t acknowledge it and some don’t know how to handle it but we all have it.The trick is to pay attention.

For the moment, I am giving Janet medication, watching her diet, and trying some alternative remedies.Every day is a blessing.Every moment is precious.I take extra time to let her know how much I love her and can’t resist throwing my arms around her neck and kissing her head.I had a dream last night that she was shot in the face but, remarkably, still lived even though she was expected to die.My heart just ached for her then as it does now.Could that be a sign of things to come? I am going to file that one away.

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Inside Out

photoOver the recent months, I have taken a slight step back in my life.There are quite a few things, “under construction” and have been for a long time.The difference now is that I am more aware of the importance of starting construction from inside out.

It is not like I have never looked within or worked on my inner self before.I really have.In fact, I honestly would like to work on the “outside” more.The things people can see.Visible things.I am beginning to see that those start from within too.

During the past year, I have had a better grasp on what it means to love yourself.It is something I had heard before but never deeply understood on an emotional level.People would tell me I was too hard on myself.I heard what they were saying but I really didn’t get it.I didn’t cut myself any slack.For example, when I started teaching yoga, it was a completely different experience for me.I had never taught before even though I suspected I had an instinct for it.There was a great deal to learn.When you start something new, especially as an adult, it’s difficult to start from the bottom.Your going to make mistakes.Your going to recieve criticism.One thing I realized is that not everyone knows how to give criticism.Sometimes people come off snotty or condesending without knowing it.Well, okay sometimes people are snotty and condesending and don’t really care.That is just the truth.Let’s be honest.It can be a challenge to take the criticism, see it for what it is, and not take it personally.When you love yourself, it becomes easier.You can listen more and not be so defensive.Then you begin to see people around you who don’t have any self love and it makes more sense.They are”running on empty” and looking for something external to build them up.Unfortunately, this can cause those people to tear others down in an attempt to feel better about themselves.It never works.

I have worked in restaurants most of my life.It’s hard, often thankless, work but it has supported my art and let me tell you, I have learned a lot about people as a result.I have watched people walk in who have already decided that they are going to have a miserable experience and there is very little, if anything, you can do about it.Come to think of it, teaching can be like that too.Actually, anything can be like that.I have played shows where the audience, or someone in the audience, was not going to have a good time.The thing about music is that it touches you on a deep level.I have seen people literally get up and leave as soon as things start rolling.Once others start enjoying themselves, getting on their feet, and dancing, they hit the door.Then the show really starts.If you are miserable with yourself and your life, it taints all your experiences.Again, from the inside out.

I once heard a psychologist friend of mine talking about how the work that you do on yourself in counseling is something no one can take away from you.I am beginning to see that more and more.When I was younger and struggling with suicidal depression, I  really didn’t see the point in counseling.I guess I wasn’t open to it.I took more of a spiritual route which did help, no doubt.Nevertheless, you can be familiar with certain spiritual truths and not really know them.I could accept that God loved me, at least on a mental level, but I had no idea what that really meant unless I was in some state of bliss or euphoria.Those moments can be fleeting.They come and go.It takes time to renew your mind, recondition yourself, and unlearn many of the messages we have received from our upbringing or society.

This is where I am now.I am in the process of weeding out those ideas about myself that seem stuck to my subconscious like a layer of silt.That brings me to an amusing story from my childhood.Many, many, years ago, my aunt and uncle gave my family a television set because, as they said, there was “something wrong with the picture.” In those days, my uncle was fond of smoking cigars.Wouldn’t you know it, my mother wiped down the picture screen and removed a layer of film left by the smoke.The picture was much clearer after that.

I haven’t thought of that story for a long time but it seems to illustrate how our vision can be clouded.It takes some effort on our part to remove the layers and limitations that can accumulate on our mind and heart.These can be a result of our environment and we don’t even realize what has “stuck” to us and it isn’t even us.Unlike the T.V. screen, it is more of an inside job.We polish our “mind’s eye” and can view our lives , and others in our lives, with more clarity.

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Lost Earrings and The Ghost of New Year’s Resolutions Past

photo (5)I love jewelry but I seldom wear or purchase expensive things because I have a tendency to lose them.This is especially the case with earrings.Perhaps I should work on that.Oh well, that isn’t the point right now.Here’s the point.When I lose an earring it can be annoying because I am stuck with one earring and I am not going to wear one without the other.That is just me.The sight of the matchless earring just makes me sad or upset.I hate to keep it around.On the other hand, I can’t immediately chuck the single earring because the lost one could turn up.In fact, this has happened a few times recently.

A couple weeks back, I lost an earring.It wasn’t valuable but I liked these earrings and got compliments on them.”Uggh,” I thought, “here we go again.” I dreaded the sight of the lonely earring but I kept it around because the other could turn up.That is what happened with another pair that I love and I am grateful I held out.After a couple days I was close to throwing the single earring away. “No,” I thought, “give it a little more time.” So I did.

The following week I lost a pendant.It was my favorite one, in fact.At this point, I am angry.I am angry at myself for being such a dumb ass. “Well maybe it’s in the car somewhere, I’ll check there,”I said to myself.I went into the car, dug around, looked on the floor, and under the seat.

Wait,what’s this?

Lo and behold, it was my long,  lost earring.Okay, so I didn’t find the pendant but I found the earring which was cause for celebration in itself.I am glad I kept the other one.

There’s a moral here.

It can be tough to hang on to one earring, waiting for the other to turn up.It can be like that in life.We experience a loss ,set back or disappointment and want to throw in the towel.We lose hope.

A couple posts back in “Commitments and Setbacks”, I talked about marathon training.I got behind and wanted to give up but decided to stick it out.I decided to just focus on finishing the race and commit to the training, regardless of the outcome.My running began to improve as a result.Lo and behold, the marathon was cancelled because of bad weather.Whoa! When does that ever happen? I am planning to run in New Orleans in February, as many Memphis runners are.We were given the option of transfering our registration.Now I have more time to train than expected. The thing is, if I didn’t already commit to the training with the intention of running in December, it wouldn’t really have helped.I would have been back to square one.It would have been like throwing away the other earring.

With 2013 coming to a close, I am reviewing the year and setting intentions for the New Year.I keep a journal so I thought I might  pull out an old one, just for a laugh, to see what last year’s resolutions looked like.HMMM…..

Okay, a couple things last year would look a little like what I would write this year, with a few revisions.For one thing, last January I gave up drinking alcohol for 30 days.That was less of a resolution and more of a challenge.Did I do it? I most certainly did.Was it sucessful then? Yes and no.It was a good test of discipline but it really didn’t seem to make much of a difference.After the 30 days in January, I decided to give up gluten in February and THAT was the ticket.Other than a few mishaps, I have been gluten free and it’s made a big difference.It was kind of an unexpected victory.I would still like to cut back on alcohol, though.

Another was practicing guitar every day.Okay so I didn’t keep with that BUT I started taking lessons,  practicing more regularly, and seeing improvement so there was that.This year I would like to continue.

Last year I said I wanted to have a green smoothie every day.I didn’t stick with that BUT I did get my juicer up and running again and started having juices as well as the occasional smoothie.This year, I have already decided on more raw food in my diet.I just made some sprouted lentil salad and picked up some spirulina as well.

I said I wanted to do yoga everyday whether in class or at home.I didn’t do that BUT I started running again and training for a marathon.It has cut into my yoga practice some so I hope to balance it out more this year.Nevertheless,I know running a marathon (and training for one) has been on a resolution list somewhere at sometime.

I guess you could say that I am seeing a pattern.Things didn’t go exactly as planned but I made improvements.It wasn’t a total loss.It wasn’t a failure.I can actually learn from what worked and what didn’t.Some people say that making New Year’s Resolutions is a waste of time and you shouldn’t do them.I disagree.I DO think you should keep them recorded somewhere so you can review what you did.In my case it was really an eye opener.More often than not, people give up on their resolutions when they don’t go as planned.I think it’s important to start the New Year looking at what went right instead of what went wrong.Even if it wasn’t a resolution, I am sure everyone can look over the past year and see that there were positive changes and growth.

This year I want to “tighten up” last years goals and maybe add a few more.I will continue with what I already have done and build on it.

Take it from me, don’t throw away the earring.Hold on just a little longer.It could still turn up.Learn from mistakes, make adjustments, and don’t give up just yet.If you failed in previous years, ask yourself why.Maybe you suceeded somewhere else, somewhere unexpected.

Keep the faith.

Happy New Year!!

 

 

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