Real Paper Notes

Here I am at my coffee shop, sipping on a non-fat latte with an extra shot, or moosed, as our local chain likes to call it.

The damn dog woke me up at 6:30am on a Saturday morning. Lucky for him, he raced out to relieve both his bowel and bladder. It’s the mornings he goes out to bark at the birds that I could just as easily cut him loose. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people who can effortlessly go back to sleep, and so like I said . . . here I am.

There was a time when I used this blog as therapy. I must have worked through several of my issues, because I just don’t seem to need it like I used to. This morning brought back memories of rising early,sneaking off for coffee and writing before Bubba wakes. And so it seemed only natural I should log in and click “Add Post” while the sun slides up in the sky.

A friend sent a note a week ago. Not electronically. She made it with real paper, with a hand-drawn fish on the front. She wrote a few words, not many. “How’s it going?” “What’s new?” but the card said so much more. It made me think about her. She lives on the coast, and fish are ever-present on her mind. Big fish. Like whales. Drawing a fish on a real paper card is so like something she would randomly do, eagerly dropping the envelope into a mailbox on the way to the rocky shore to look for shells, or jellyfish, or whatever the sea rolls in.

I can’t say for sure, but I imagine her finding the little oval cards with their matching envelopes at a humble second-hand shop or old-fashioned drug store. The price was right, and she knew she’d find some way to make someone’s day brighter; the thought of their smile involuntarily igniting one of her own. She has this crooked little grin when there’s something she’s thinking but not saying.

Perhaps she stared out over the waves when she decided what to do with the notecards, or maybe she was pulling weeds in the garden. But I know she spent some time contemplating. I know she thought about each person who would be on the other end while she drew. She undoubtedly laughed at her illustration of a fish swimming through the weeds. And she sent it anyway. Because that’s who she is.

And in this age of email and text messages, what kind of person does this random act of drawing a fish on a plain pink card and sending it in a matching envelope through the mail? It reminded me of how much I miss her unapologetically real and honest soul. If we asked her, she’d laugh and say she is quite unremarkable. And perhaps she’s right. Maybe we want to believe it takes a certain someone to make time for this simple deed. Maybe we’re afraid of learning that if we slow down for just a minute, we, too, hold the potential for honesty, love, following our dreams, and sending real paper notes through the mail.

This little card reminded me just a bit of who I want to be. When was the last time an email did that?

Peace . . .

Check out my friend’s Instagram Account to know her better:

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Seeking Peace and Balance as a Diet Junkie

UntitledI am a diet junkie.  Any new nutrition fad fascinates me.  The latest power food?  Tell me!  If you walked into my house, you would find diet cookbooks in every room — low-cal, low-carb, paleo, flat-belly, DASH, vegetarian, vegan — have I missed any?  You might think a svelte, muscular woman would walk out to greet you.  Let’s skip the Match.com body-type description, and just say . . . I’m not.

My mother fought with food all her life.  She often said she could live on a good loaf of crusty bread with butter.  After the loss of her son and quitting smoking, her eating was out of control.  She was the first person I knew to have a gastric bypass.  Many things have changed since then, but I think I can safely say that surgery is still not an easy way out, by any means.  I watched her recover, and although she was so pleased at the weight loss, she was often tired or ill.  There were certain foods that never agreed with her again.

Soon after the bypass, she developed a lactose intolerance.  One day they diagnosed her with diabetes.  When my father died, suffering from a broken heart, she malnourished herself.

She would look at pictures of momentous life events and remark not over the day itself, but, “Look how thin I was there.”  Or, “Oh my, I was heavy.”  She tried hard to be a good role model for me, and I think she succeeded.  But children notice things like that.  I think I joined her on my first diet when I was twelve or thirteen.

After a stroke that left her too weak to walk on her own and unable to keep most food down, her weight plummeted.  She joked that this was one way to lose weight.  And she was right.  When she took her last breath, she was tiny and frail.

My mother was a vibrant woman in life.  I spent most of my life living in her shadow.  Until the shadow was gone.

And all the things I had watched her do, and say, and be, became relevant.  Because at some point I stepped into the light and realized I belonged there.  People began to say, “You are JUST like your mother.”  And I was so proud, because she was everything I wanted to be.  But I was also so afraid, because of all the things I watched her fight. *One day, I said to myself,

“It is so wonderful to be just like Mom.  But I am not her.  I will live my own life, face my own demons, and clear my own hurdles.”

UntitledI think it was at that moment I veered off her path and started to live my life.  In the year that followed, I lost 45 pounds.  Life and I began a beautiful new relationship.  I got a tattoo of a dragonfly, symbolizing the change from nymph to agile predator.  No longer content to hide unnoticed, I was spreading my wings and meeting life head-on.

However, habits die hard, and I am still fascinated by this food thing.  I’ve found an ebb and flow between the control it has over me and the control I allow it to have.  Therein lies the peace.  Balance is not a thing — it is a constant shifting of yin and yang.

What I’ve learned is that there are many ways to feed yourself.  You can feed the body, feed the mind, or feed the emotions.  All three need to consume their own diet.  You can substitute one for another, but to do so is not healthy and will never produce good results.  It is also true that sometimes you need to let the mind, body, or emotions go without before you can truly feel the pain of hunger and know what is needed to satiate . . .

A good cry . . .

A good book . . .

or a good meal . . .

While one cannot substitute for the other, I have seen all three go quite well together, if necessary.

Peace . . .

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Meal by Meal:  365 Daily Meditations for Finding Balance through Mindful Eating by Donald Altman

Available on Amazon.com

 

Blueprint of Happiness Recap #2

If  you’ve been paying attention, and you actually do the math, at some point you’re going to realize that anyone who designs a Happiness Project with a minimum of three intentions per month, will have 33 new habits at the end of the eleven months.  The twelfth month is dedicated to reflection on all of them.

Having 33 new habits would be a piece of cake (and I can’t tell you how happy cake makes me), if I didn’t already have about 102 other good and bad habits that I do every day.  I know few people who could fit that many more things in their already packed schedule.  Presumably, some of these happier habits are meant to squeeze out the ones that don’t add to my life, and I will be pleased with the results . . . like having to toss your old furniture when you bring in the new stuff.

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Using a letter grading system on the frequency of practice, the quality of my practice, and the satisfaction I get from it, I rated myself.  My report card looks like THIS.

And how is this affecting my other habits; the good and bad ones I already had?

Getting outside is by far the best intention I have made so far.  It lifts my spirits, grounds me with my community and nature, and makes me move a little bit.  This is definitely better than being inside.

Finding decent music on the radio during my twelve-minute (yes, twelve minutes — don’t hate me) commute isn’t always easy.  The morning shows are all talk, trying to be funny, but coming off as negative, sarcastic and cynical.  Eventually I can usually find a station playing some kind of music.  Getting my groove on may not be a life-altering behavior, and certainly isn’t replacing any other, but it puts a bounce in my step that the morning joe can’t match.

10238463774_373da92bb6_oDoing nothing for 15 minutes, or eating mindfully doesn’t replace other behavior as much as it requires you to ignore distractions.  This is what creates the challenge, and thus the lack of frequency.  Sometimes finding the right setting, away from diversion is key.

Pausing to stop, look, and listen replaces a habit of mindlessly walking from here to there.  It acts like a camera where you look through a lens and see the everyday world in a new way.

..~~*~~..

This month has its own challenges as the days are shorter, and have me driving home with headlights.  The shivery temperatures, and lack of sunshine bring me down.  It’s a good time to focus on the home, fix what is broken, throw out what is unused or unappreciated, and make room for new ideas.

My intentions for the month of November are:

  • Fix
  • De-clutter
  • Desire

I think defining aspirations must come easy for some people.  They always know exactly where they are heading, even if they don’t know where they will end up.  I am not one of those people.  I am a realist, leaning toward pessimism.  If the grass looks greener on the other side, experience has taught me that it isn’t.  Even if it is, I’m well aware there are also dandelions, stickers, and possibly a wolf.  No, I’m the kind of person who keeps her sites set firmly on this side of the fence and makes the best of it.  Exploring my true yearning is going to be a challenge.

The two books I am working with, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and The Joy Diet by Martha Beck, truly work quite well together.  I can begin to see pieces of my desire by looking at which intentions come easily and what gives me the most satisfaction.

10238509465_45cf4fd54a_o..~~*~~..

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.
— George Bernard Shaw

Blueprint of Happiness Recap #1

To answer the burning question “Have I found myself any happier?”  Oh, of course!  It is Autumn, and the air is crisp!  If there are two things that lift my spirit, they are the longer days of spring and the cooler days of fall.

The goal for September was to energize by following four guidelines in my Blueprint of Happiness.  Let’s take a look and see how it played out:

  • Get Outside – I found the fresh air and sunshine had the most positive impact on my attitude.  Of course, the weather has been sunny and comfortable.  Time will tell if I will find this as energizing in February.  In addition to our weekly jaunts to the dog park, I found time to sit outside and enjoy my senses, meander through nature, and work on a few projects out in my own yard.
  • Music – In my opinion there is too much talk radio broadcast in the morning.  I prefer to start my day with a song stuck in my head.  Of course, the goal was not to just listen to music, but to find something that moves me.  It really doesn’t matter how it moves me.  I want to cry, to dance, to do a little head-banging, and sometimes just sing along and laugh my butt off!  To feel emotion is to feel alive.  To feel alive is to reap happiness.
  • Run an Errand – It came as no surprise that trying to think of one errand every day, no matter how small, became laborious.  Within a week I had redefined the goal to “Complete Something.”  I patched a section of lawn.  I wrote a letter.  I bought ingredients and baked cookies.  I bought a light bulb for my oven.  Something did indeed get accomplished every day, and I am the better for it.
  • 15 minutes of Nothing – As predicted, this was the most difficult task to perform.  I found it easiest when combined with my goal to get outside.  Sitting with the sun on my face and watching the squirrels hop through the yards while doing nothing was lovely.  It reminded me of times past when people used to sit on the front porch at the end of the day.  It’s a perfect way to reconnect with your senses, which the world has become so adept at cutting off.

..~~*~~..

This month of October I have decided to connect with reality and truth.  Not the kind of truth where I’m going to ask Bubba if my jeans make my butt look big.  I will happily reside in that ignorance indefinitely.  The truth I seek is that which comes from spending time mindfully.  My daily intentions include:

  • Eat mindfully
  • Stop, Look, and Listen
  • Create a moment of truth (The Joy Diet by Martha Beck)

The first day that I went through the four steps for creating a moment of truth, I found myself sobbing.  It went like this:

Step 1:  Start with your daily dose of nothing

As usual, I spent my fifteen minutes taking in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood.  I looked at the timer three times before it finally went off.  While I enjoyed the break, I was ready for the alarm to sound so I could continue the tasks of the evening.

Step 2:  Ask and answer these questions:

What am I feeling?  I kind of wish I had spent those fifteen minutes accomplishing something.

What hurts?  I hate that the days are so short that doing something for myself feels like a waste of time.

What is the painful story I’m telling?  I’m wasting my life working for a paycheck, and just surviving from one day to the next.

Is my painful story working?  Yes, I am tricking myself into thinking that my life is being used against my will.

Can I think of another story that might work better?  The things I choose to do matter.  Even if I am doing something I’m not thrilled about, I make other people happy by making them laugh, or treating them right.  Look at what a good life Barney had while he was just hanging around with me.  He was such a good dog, and I made sure he knew it every day he was with me . . . .

 . . . and that’s when the sobbing started.

The exposure of this lie I had been telling myself — the truth — set me free.  I may not be able to choose to stop working for a paycheck, but I can choose how I affect the people around me.  And in liberating that reality, the grief for the recent loss of my dog surfaced unexpectedly.

Step 3:  Offer compassion to your inner lying scumbag.  

May you be well.  May you be happy.  May you find peace.

..~~*~~..

The thermometer is dropping and I have taken to wrapping myself in a scarf and blanket, and sitting on the front step with a cup of tea.  Eventually I become awkwardly aware that a smile has settled on my face.  I quite like it, and instead of setting the timer to make sure I fulfill my fifteen minute session, I now set it so that I don’t forget to stop.

 

Lost and Found

latteFinding a place to sit, I balanced my chai tea latte toward the table.  I flung my bag on the booth, slid my coat off my shoulders.  A deep breath relaxed me as I lifted the hot drink.  Its warmth radiated through my chest as if someone had laid a shawl over my shoulders.

There was too much on my mind.  The plan was to upload everything from my brain onto paper.  Another deep breath as I opened my bag to dig out my notebook and pen.  I fished in one side, then the other.  Fruitlessly, I repeated the search until I finally resigned myself to having forgotten them.

No matter, I would pull out my phone and jot down a few tasks on a checklist.  Neither side pockets nor inner compartments revealed my phone.  Here I was, for the single purpose of organizing my thoughts in a peaceful place, and I had no tools with which to do it.  I looked at my latte.  I could ask for a to-go cup, go home for my notebook and return.  I could go home and try to recreate the atmosphere there.  I looked at my latte again.

After one more breath, I decided to take this rare opportunity to just . . . be.

Agitation fought relaxation.   Thoughts would pop into my mind, my head would jerk, as if by reflex, looking for my phone to text, tweet, or post it.  Deep breath . . . there is nowhere but here.  There is no time but now.

Slowly, my surroundings came into focus.  The child at the neighboring table being prodded to eat more quickly.  The colors of the walls.  The fading light outside.  Could it be this was all here just moments ago?  My head jerked to text, tweet, or post my thought.  Deep breath . . . nowhere but here.

A baby cried, out of view, but not out of earshot.  The murmur of the people.  The music too soft to notice unless the tables are empty.  How strange to think I was probably the only one hearing it.  I smiled to myself.  No where but here.  No time but now.

I was practicing mindfulness.  Engaging my senses one by one.  Releasing my grasp on the past and future.

I love my gadgets.  My smartphone is my umbilical cord to the world.  But in the process of becoming more connected, I recognized had become disconnected.  In the process of managing more tasks, I had become mindless.  I am, at times, blind and deaf to the life that surrounds me.

While I won’t be discarding my gadgets any time soon, I definitely learned from this experience.  I need to be mindful, not only of the present, but of those times when I have gotten lost; distracted by places in which I don’t reside, worrying about things that don’t exist, speaking to people who aren’t there.

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You may also be interested in these articles:

Hold Onto Your Pants:  this one goes out to the one i love . . . 

grevilleacorner:  Bargaining with life

Beauty and the Borderline:  Mindfulness: Notice Your Surroundings