Posted in Meditative Monday

The movement movement

Movement is the new exercise. Exercise is pedaling nowhere watching the miles click by on a monitor. Movement is breathing the fresh air, nodding to your neighbors and feeling the sun on your face. Movement is dance. Or stretching the kinks away, or even mowing the lawn. Movement can even be lifting weights in a sweaty gym, but not for me.

Movement is physical activity, no matter how small. Exercise is a type of physical activity, but implies counting reps or miles and following a program in the hope of achieving a level of fitness.

I love the idea of movement. But lately, I’ve been trying to be a little more vigorous about my movement without slipping into exercise. I have some autumn goals I’m looking toward, and I want to be strong and capable when they get here. For me, it’s a slippery slope to exercise. And I hate exercise. If it becomes exercise, (pardon my French, NIKE) I’ll just never do it.

Last weekend was hot and humid. It was my least favorite weather. And for a Minnesotan to say it was the worst weather of all, is saying something.

I strapped a water bottle to my bike with the intention of cycling just a little bit farther than I had the time before. And I did. Until, on the way back, I ran out of gas, so to speak. My water was warm. It was hot in the shade. Even after resting, I had trouble swinging my leg over the crossbar without losing my balance. To make a long story short, I eventually made it home safely and was fine after resting in the back yard.

Since then, I’ve had every excuse in the book why I can’t hop on my bicycle for even a few blocks. I’d ruined it for myself.

The days of rest gave me some space to assess the situation. I hadn’t practiced mindful movement. I’d made the mileage the goal. I’d turned it into exercise, which I personally equate to mental, physical and emotional torture.

So I pictured a meter. At zero is rest. At the far right is death. In between, the needle moves from leisure to torture. The sweet spot on the meter is where I find challenge. If I want to continue getting stronger, I need to push past leisurely movement and try not to venture into torture. The minute I hit torture, I’m going to shut down — physically, emotionally and psychologically — I’d literally rather sit on the couch feeling horrible about myself.

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Torture = feeling too sick, hot or tired to continue; cursing myself because I can’t do what I think I “should;” playing mind games to keep myself moving

Leisure = feeling good to get up off the couch; smiling at flowers or bugs along the way; shaking off stress

Challenge = awareness of breath and body; gratitude for the ability to move and breathe; mastery of presence — finding the sweet spot on the meter

For me, running a marathon or training for the Olympics sounds like self torture. I simply want to walk a 5k without limping across the finish line. This is the movement movement. It’s personal, it’s mindful and it feeds the body, mind and soul.

Peace . . .

Posted in Meditative Monday

Mindful grief

I wore a brightly-flowered skirt and matching blouse to my father’s funeral. Immediately upon entering the church I knew I was inappropriately dressed. I’d forgotten funeral etiquette. After giving birth two months earlier, I had nothing to wear that fit, and I’d gone shopping in a haze.

When I tell this story, most friends usually try to comfort me and say I chose something that would make my dad smile. Actually, if he was looking down, Dad would have thought my skirt terribly unbefitting. Yet there I was, in front of the whole congregation competing with the alter gladiolas.

I made no apologies, and to this day chuckle at the misstep. I was young, consumed by grief, drunken with hormones, and a mother of three. If anyone was allowed the mistake, surely I was.

There may be five common stages, but we all move through grief at our own pace and in our own way. There’s no right way to grieve. It’s a personal thing. Even when faith, culture and etiquette dictate one right way to mourn, it’s crucial we show self-compassion and honor whatever it is that helps us to heal.

By accommodating our own process, it affords us the ability to do the same for others. It may be easier for us to feel empathy for the one who cries than for the one who didn’t attend the funeral. Yet, it’s entirely possible that the one who didn’t show feels such pain they can’t leave the house. It’s possible the one who is angry has hurtful regrets. It’s possible the one who makes jokes is afraid.

We can’t know what stories are deeply buried in another’s heart. Sometimes we scarcely know what’s in our own.

May we feel deeply for all affected by death and open our hearts to love and compassion for their healing.

Peace . . .
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Posted in Well-being

Now what?

Once I gave up dieting, sold all my diet books to the half-price bookstore, and unfollowed all my diet social media, I began the process of learning how to decide what to eat on my own. That sounds so silly, doesn’t it? I’m a grown woman who raised four human beings into adulthood. I’ve been buying groceries and cooking for forty years. And I woke up that first morning like . . . now what?

One might think I dove headfirst into a tall stack of buttermilk pancakes with real butter, pools of syrup dripping over the edge of the plate. But I didn’t. I reached for a banana, because it was familiar and safe. I grabbed a knife, and in my mind I was deciding whether I should eat a half or a third. Numbers danced in my head. Calories.

And then I did the unthinkable. I ate the whole damn banana. 489px-Banana

It wasn’t that I’d never eaten a whole banana before. Usually I ate it in segments; a half banana for breakfast, calories logged, with a serving of oatmeal and skim milk. Midmorning I might browse through the kitchen and snip off another quarter, justifying that it was a harmless fruit. After lunch the last quarter would go into a scoop of ice cream with chocolate syrup and whipped cream, if we had it. I might even have added nuts.

And there it was. I’d blown it.

By 4 PM I was crabby, defeated, and angry. Fight or flight. Except I’d used up all my fight trying not to eat that sundae, and consequently wishing I hadn’t. So I’d fly into the kitchen and look for that One Thing that was going to make me feel better. I’d eat toast. Nope, that wasn’t it. I’d try fruit. Not quite. Maybe something salty? Gooey? Protein?

Eventually, I’d sit on the couch, stuffed to the gills. I no longer felt angry or crabby. The demons had been sufficiently numbed. Sometimes I’d sleep, waking groggy, guilty and full. But there was one more phase — keeping the secret.

Because . . . This was embarrassing, this weird afternoon rage through the kitchen. So I would fix a perfectly normal dinner for Bubba and I, with meat and vegetables, maybe a salad or potatoes. And I would eat that too. Because otherwise I’d have to admit I had already eaten toast and fruit and chips and candy and cheese and god knows what else. And having him forage through the fridge looking for something to eat on his own would have deepened my guilt. Then the meat and vegetables I had planned to cook would rot in the fridge, and I’d have to throw them out. More guilt. Better to keep the secret, eat like a bird, and end the night in gluttonous discomfort.

So, yes. That first day I ditched dieting I ate the whole. goddamn. banana.

I ate it with whatever else I had for breakfast. But I remember that full banana because it was the first full banana I’d eaten in years without bargaining a smaller bowl of oatmeal, or promising myself I’d leave the rest until the next morning, knowing full well that fucking thing was going to land in an afternoon sundae.

And I was full until lunch, when, making my salad, I picked up a ripe avocado. I pulled out a sharp knife, and sliding it through the rough skin to the inner buttery flesh, numbers began to dance through my head. Calories. Should I slice up a third or a fourth?

Then I sliced half of the avocado and laid it gingerly on my salad . . .

Peace . . .

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Posted in Lore

And This Too Shall Pass

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Everything and everyone are temporary.  Some things are temporary longer, but never permanent.  The oldest thing you can think of will someday be as gone and forgotten as tomorrow’s Top 40.  Is this too deep for a Sunday morning?  I apologize.  I’m in a melancholy mood.

How, you ask, is this woebegone thinking going to dig me out of the doldrums?  When I mention my thoughts on this out loud, at least one person will eventually tell me I’m depressing.  I understand.  Life is art.  Your perspective depends on where you are standing.   Lack of permanence is comforting or unnerving depending on your perspective.

Abraham Lincoln, in an address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, once said,

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

Sometimes we control how long something will be temporary.  We can take action; re-cut a bad haircut, remove a tattoo.  We can take a break or even quit a job or relationship.  I prefer not to stay in an unacceptable situation if it shows no sign of change.  I left an employer over a decade ago, because I needed different hours.  I asked if there was any way to change my shift, and they said no.  It was a fine place to work, but it just didn’t fit my family needs.  Several people mentioned how they should leave too, for various reasons, but mostly because they hated it there.

Upon handing in my two-week notice, a couple of managers approached me.  They wanted me to stay.  They would have offered me different hours.  They would have trained me in different areas.  They really had high hopes for me.  Would I consider staying?  “Sorry,” I said.  “I already have another job.”  Perhaps if they had known I was so very temporary, they have valued me more from the onset.

When I go back to that place, I still see a couple of those people who said they wanted to leave.  If you wait for change to fall in your lap, you might have to wait a long time.  After a while you forget you have a choice.  Time flies when you’re having fun, but disappears forever when you’re not.

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When things are really bad, I mean really bad, caring friends will ask, “Are you okay?”  To which I reply, “I’m fine.”  When they ask if I’m sure, I say, “What else am I going to be?”  I suppose the obvious answer to that is “not fine.”  But as long as I’m conscious and breathing, I make the choice to be fine.  The rest is temporary.

In my car this morning, Alanis Morissette was singing through the stereo.

I’m broke but I’m happy
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful baby
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine

She sings of the yin and yang of life.  The fact that I gravitate toward the yang when the yin of life weighs me down is a healthy thing.  I write.  I walk.  I get out of the house.  I look for beauty in the world.  I find beauty within myself.  I know both light and dark are temporary, and find delight and grief in their brevity.

So, yeah.  I’m a little introspective and quiet this morning.  And a little melancholy.

And this too shall pass.

Peace . . .

Posted in Lore

A Sharp Turn in Life

"Always fasten safety belt" - NARA -...
“Always fasten safety belt” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a kid, we never buckled up.  The cars were big, and the seats were hard and flat.  If the driver took a sharp turn, we’d slide across the back seat until we pressed up against another passenger and flattened them to the door.  Cloverleaf turns were the best because they went on forever, and you just couldn’t right yourself.

Sometimes life is like that.  I’ve taken a big turn, and I’m giggling.  It’s exciting and fun, but I’m pressed up against the side of the car and I can’t seem to right myself.  In the chaos, my purse tipped over and all my belongings are strewn across the floor.

If you’re not a woman or don’t carry a purse, you have no idea what kind of catastrophe it is to have it empty on the floor of a car.  There are cosmetics, credit cards, pills, scraps of paper, keys, and candy that will melt if lost and forgotten under the seat.  This is how my life feels.  It is an upside down purse on the bottom of a car, careening around a cloverleaf off of Interstate 94.  And I’m smooshed against the window giggling so hard I’m in danger of peeing my pants.

I know you were wondering why I hadn’t posted in a while . . .  You were, right?

The car is finally starting to come out of its turn and I’m thinking about how to put my purse back together without stepping on any of it first.  I chose to write here, because it seems to clear my head.  It’s some type of conscious meditation, connecting brain fibers, inducing deep breath.  It feels familiar, like soil under bare feet.

I see that there are two ways to go with this.  I can pick up the most important things first — the credit cards and pills — or toss the scraps of meaningless papers out the window.

No, I don’t litter in real life.  This is all metaphorically speaking.  Try to stay with me, here.

Isn’t there some saying about swallowing your biggest frog first?  Yuck.  It reminds me of a nightmare I once had.  I’m going to pick up my credit cards and pills first, which will make the rest seem like tadpoles.  Gross.

So here’s the plan.  It’s not etched in stone, but the internet is close.

  1. Pick up the credit cards.  I’m going to pay my bills before I forget them and they become overdue.  While I’m doing that, I can check my bank balances.  I’ll put all the tax documents in one obvious annoying place.
  2. Chase down the pills.  Take a walk.  It’s a beautiful day — the sun is shining and the dog is eager.  The fresh air is the medicine I need to complete the rest.
  3. Put the cosmetics back in the case.  Clean myself up — get dressed, from my makeup to my shoes, to gear up for the rest of the day.
  4. Throw out the scraps of paper.  Clutter is caving in on me.  I still have Christmas stuff out for God’s sake!  I’m going to pick up, tidy up, clear out, and throw away!

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  5. Pick up my pocket calendar.  I’m pretty sure my son’s birthday was this week.  What was it he requested?  Vegetarian lasagna . . .
  6. Find my keys.  There are errands to run.  Groceries need buying — soy sausage, noodles, sauce, maybe cupcakes . . .
  7. Fish out that bit of chocolate under the seat.  Lastly, I’m going to treat myself.  Maybe I’ll watch a movie with popcorn or find a pair of shoes at the mall.

Another fun thing I remember about the old bench seats is a sharp turn followed by one in the other direction.  I never knew if Mom or Dad did it just to hear us laugh, but sliding from one side of the car to the other was a thrill I will never forget.

One best left to memory, and not encountered in metaphor!

Nowadays we have seat belts, helmets, shin guards, face masks, and anti-lock brakes meant to suck the fun out of everything keep us safe and extend our lives.  When they come up with one for the sharp turns in life, let me know, will ya?

Peace . . .

Posted in Service Industry

High Standards + Low Expectations = Peace of Mind

Half Full or Half Empty? (LensBaby 8)
(LensBaby 8) (Photo credit: Today is a good day)

I like to think of myself as a realist.  My glass may be half full or half empty.  I’ll let you know after I find out what’s in there.  Wine?  Dang, that glass is half empty.  Fill ‘er up, eh?

As a realist, there are things I understand.  Not everyone is going to like me.  Nothing is perfect — not a job, not a friendship, not a house, not a spouse.  Nothing lasts forever — not possessions, not happiness, not life, and certainly not cake.

For these reasons and more, realists sometimes are mistaken for pessimists.  But as a realist, I also understand that everywhere I go, most people are going to like me.  And my job, friendships, house, and Bubba are really awesome.  In addition, most things will last just long enough to get what you need out of them, including grief, strife, childhood, and life.  Even cake.

Another misconception is that people with low expectations harbor low standards.  While I know what superb results look like, I know there are times I just won’t achieve them.  To avoid stress, it is in my best interest to be realistic.

Perfection is where high standards meet high expectations and can lead to procrastination and eventually paralysis.  The dreaded 3 P’s.  Look it up.

Take my last month at work and, for all I know, the next month or more.  We had a software conversion.  They tell me I am a super-user, which means all questions and issues from my department funnel through me.  I work in a customer service position.  Our software conversion is causing issues not only for internal users, but the people we serve.  There are inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations.  There’s that word again.

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Taroby screen-inbox (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My email and voicemail inboxes are brimming with unanswered messages.  I am not meeting my high standards of customer service.  I am afraid I won’t help my co-workers feel comfortable in the new system.  I have lost management of my time.  My long hours are shrinking my personal time; my real life.

And on one particular day I crashed.  I threw a hissy fit right a my desk.  Papers were thrown.  Tears were spilt.  Someone in the neighboring office may have freaked out.  Just a little.

The biggest problem was the level at which I had placed my expectations.  I expected June to feel normal.  I expected a manageable routine by now.  I expected sleep to come 7 hours at a time.  After five weeks in the new system, I expected to meet my high standards.   When they weren’t, I imploded.  Or exploded as the case may have been.

It is time for a game plan.  And while I don’t completely have that plan figured out, chances are it is going to include lowering my expectations.

The difference between expectations and standards is that you can lower your expectations without sacrificing your self-esteem. I don’t think we can say the same of our standards.  While our circumstances are often out of our control, both of these attributes are not; we can set them deliberately.

I have set my standards sky-high.  Due to circumstances out of my control, I just can’t meet them . . .

 . . . yet.

Posted in Lore

10 Ways to be a Good Role Model for your Inner Child

Inner Child
Inner Child (Photo credit: CapturedbyKC)

Every child needs a good role model.  Young people are so impressionable and idealistic, aren’t they?  If you are a parent, you are likely careful with whom your child spends time.  You want someone who will make good choices, be honest, trustworthy, kind.

We are all role models, whether we want to or not.  We play a role and we model that for the world to see.  As a caretaker for your Inner Child, you are on duty 24/7.  Choose your actions wisely.

  1. Listen.  Get to know your Inner Child.  If you have said “SHHhhhh!” often enough, you may need to give him time to speak up.  He will be leery, and may have to remember what it was he wanted to say.  You cannot move on to any of the other items until you succeed with this first one.
  2. Inspire.  What is it that your Inner Child would like to be or do?  Choose actions that elicit that passion.  Seek out knowledge about an interest.  Give back to others.  Try something new.
  3. Be trustworthy.  If you tell your Inner Child you will do something, keep your word.  If you don’t think you can, be honest.  Don’t make promises you aren’t able or don’t intend  to keep.  Follow through with those you do.
  4. Apologize.  Only deities are perfect.  Admit mistakes.  Learn from them.  Promise to do better.  Your Inner Child will learn to forgive.
  5. Have integrity.  Your Inner Child will respect and admire your actions when they align with your values.  If you speak gratitude, and take people for granted, your Inner Child will suffer.  When you speak words of love, and show actions of hatred, your Inner Child is watching.
  6. Respect.  Treat your Inner Child the way you would want to be treated.  Be good, gentle and kind.  Show respect and gratitude toward others.  Respect the world, and the world will become your mirror.
  7. Give.  Children admire those who give freely and selflessly of time, money and essentials.  It is important for our Inner Child to feel there are gifts that come to those who need them.  He will look up to you as someone who fulfills those needs.
  8. Be strong.  Choose your fights wisely, then show your Inner Child how fiercely you engage.  Overcome obstacles.  Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  Rise from the flames.  Reinvent yourself.
  9. Have confidence.  Be someone of whom your Inner Child would be proud.  Then be proud of whom you have become.
  10. Play.  Go out for ice cream.  Play on the swing set.  Lay in the grass.  Feel the sun on your skin.  Pick a dandelion bouquet.  Notice a bug.  Picnic in the front yard.  Take your feet off the pedals and coast.
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inner child (Photo credit: Dave_B_)

What was your favorite playtime when you were a child?  Could you do that now?  If not, how could you change it for your grown-up self?

Peace . . .

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