Friday, October 18, 2013

Pillows and perspective

It's Friday! Despite being off for Columbus Day on Monday, this week has felt pretty long. There's not much going on at work, still, so I've had lots of time to do some textbook reading for the group fitness instructor certification and to sit here wishing I were at home being this lazy.

I turned a finished cross-stitch into a Christmas pillow for Jeff's dad and stepmom! I'm pretty excited that I managed to sew a pillow without it looking dumpy. I even learned how to do a ladder stitch to close up the opening that I stuffed it with. It's not perfect, but you can only see the imperfections if you're being hypercritical and looking for them... which reminded me that most of the disappointments I find in myself are only apparent because I'm being hypercritical. If I take a step back and look at the pillow as a whole, I'm completely in love with my work. It's all about perspective, and I sometimes forget I'm allowed to choose my perspective.

There will be a picture of said pillow after Christmas. I never know who might stumble across my blog. I've been working on some ornaments and have plans for a few other sewn gifts. I love the holidays. There's already Christmas stuff up in Walmart and I'm always so happy when it first goes up. Yes, I'll be tired of it in a few weeks, but for now I'm savoring each time I walk through the garden center and see their perfect rows of fake trees. And shiny things! Yay!

Fitness has been pretty good lately, but I still feel like I've lost the strong motivation I'd had over the past few years. Which is frustrating. It's like I woke up one day a few months ago and just didn't like working out anymore. Plus, while it seemed like a breeze to complete Body Revolution last year, this time really messed with my knees. I had to take some time off. So I've been switching it up a bit and bouncing around to find the workouts that I enjoy. If there's one fitness tip that will help keep anyone healthy, it's to enjoy your fitness program. I'm doing some dumbbell and bodyweight work at home and keeping track of my strength gains on paper. I was doing a step aerobics class through the parks and recreation department a county south of mine, since it's on my home from work, but the timing really messes with me. I have to wait around an hour before it starts, and then get home about a half an hour before I like to be in bed. I skipped both sessions this week and emailed the instructor that I hope to come back next week, but it's pretty unlikely. I did go home and workout each of the times I missed, so I didn't beat myself up too badly. Evening commitments are just not a good idea for me. That time that I like to be in bed by? It's 7:30pm. I wake up really, really, really early.

Not too much else is going on. I have an evening planned with a great friend from college in Richmond tonight, and then tomorrow I'm making some ravioli which I'm pretty jazzed about. Sunday we have family dinner with Jeff's family, and we'll get to give his dad and sister some birthday presents. And also: pumpkin cheesecake. Jeff's going to make some, I think. YAY!

I hope everyone out there has a fantastic weekend and is feeling light and open.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Highlight Reels

I'm so glad that many of the civilian workers on base have been called back into work today. I missed a few of them personally, and I know that almost all of them will be feeling better and more at ease returning to their regular work schedules.

Last week gave me some time and space to notice a few things about my behavior when there isn't a lot of work to be done. The new fiscal year means that it will be some time before the buyers start ordering regularly again, and there were fewer folks around to come in and need any attention. There are still lots of items coming in that need to be processed and delivered, and there are always bigger tasks I could take the initiative to complete around the shop, but mostly I've been embracing the chance for a little time to kill and trying to focus on all the gratitude I'm feeling. Turns out it's hard to feel grateful when I'm using my free time at work by mindlessly browsing the internet and compulsively checking my Facebook feed at least 3-4 times an hour.

A couple of my Facebook friends, one from high school and one from college, noted some similar feelings in their statuses over the weekend. One pointed out that seeing all the activities that others were doing didn't help with her already-present feeling of "not having a life." Another said that it was painful to see that everyone else is reaching their dreams while she didn't feel the same, and that she tries so hard but never seems to feel as accomplished as those on her feed.

It made me remember a quote I'd read, and I went out to find it. Turns out it was made by a minister from North Carolina:

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel” ~ Steve Furtick

Man that sure makes me feel better. Facebook is, for most folks, simply their highlight reel. I try to post a variety of my own celebrations and concerns, but I'm just as guilty of not being fully authentic there as I believe most others are. I commented to one of the friends and mentioned the above quote, but then took a glance at my own page. The most recent posts were a funny comment on the new wings at McDonalds (look, you can relate to me because I eat bad food sometimes, and I'm soooo hilarious!), a spontaneous check-in at a brewery with a good friend (look at how awesome I am getting out and doing things like drink snobby beers!), a youtube video of an old De La Soul song about perseverance (I'm soooo old school and I care about everyone affected by the shutdown!), and a profile pic change to a picture from March 2012 of Jeffrey and I dancing at my buddy's wedding (look at this dreamy look on my face, I'm soooo in love and my relationship is perfect!).

It's all pretty funny. But also kind of sad. Because what I didn't post is that I spent a good part of the weekend feeling like complete crap. My hormones are batty right now, I am facing some major feelings of professional inferiority, my bad mood rubs off on poor Jeff and I then feel guilty that he spends extra time doing little things to make me smile, when I don't even feel like doing anything to make myself smile, ahhhh! It gets bad. It gets bad for everyone at times, I'm pretty sure. But they don't post about it on Facebook, or if they do, they get a few comments reminding them how grateful they should be feeling or what they should be doing to get out of their funk. I've tried a lot of shoulds when I get into my ruts, and I've tried ignoring the shoulds and just letting the darkness wrap me up in a bundle of suffering. I'm finding that balance improves every aspect of my life, and that includes the ruts.

I feel better today because I spent a few hours just letting myself lay around and accept my funk with open arms. Then I took some time to express to my husband how much it means to me that he lets me be in a bad mood and lets me take space when I want space. I rested and went to bed early so that I could wake up an hour early this morning and do a little of the yoga that my body and mind have been craving, and then I sat for five minutes in meditation despite aiming for ten minutes. I didn't beat myself up for not sitting through the unease any longer, and I didn't turn my phone on to see who on my Facebook feed was doing life better than me this morning. It's hard to be vulnerable, even online, and I'm going to try to remember that as the constant urges to check the feed creep in, and then jealousy and insecurity follow as I scan that page of what everyone wants to look like. I'm lucky enough to have a few relationships in my life that can be vulnerable and messy, and that's where I have glimpses of the true view of humanity.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Symphony of Contentment

One of my favorite blogs is Postive Provocations; I love when a new post pops up in my RSS feed. This week's post focused on contentment, particularly in a material sense, and a poem Zeenat referenced really touched me:

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury;
and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable;
and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly,
talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasion, hurry never; in a word,
to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.” ~ William Ellery Channing

I've been reading blogs about minimalism for a few years, and have taken little steps in my own life to embrace the idea. I've gotten rid of a ton of things by throwing a couple of yard sales, donating several boxes to a local charity, and pulling more than half my clothes that aren't worn off the hangers and out of the drawers. Okay, so, those clothes are all in a giant pile in the corner of my closet because I intend to use the fabric for sewing projects in the future... but still.

One of my favorite ideas for finding financial freedom is to live as a one-income household even while two incomes are being earned. This would allow us to save nearly half our income (or put it towards our debt snowball, which we're pretty much doing already, just not through my budgeting or planning), embrace more frugal living tips, and be prepared if one of us were to need to go without an income for a period of time. It would be pretty challenging though, especially with the amount we spend on gas and vehicle maintenance for our lengthy commutes, my cigarette habit, and our tendency to enjoy a meal out more often than we really need to. I like to think that I have the words "need" and "want" defined pretty well in my life, but truthfully, I don't. I've never known the experience of truly needing something that I can't get or don't already have.

I take pride in the fact that neither of us spend much on material goods simply for the sake of having them. I bought a pair of black heels on clearance for $7 last week and realized it was the first time I'd bought shoes in more than three years. I ask for a new pair of workout shoes each year for my birthday and wear the previous year's as work shoes. Jeff goes through work shirts a little more often, but he picks new ones up cheap since he's resigned to the fact that gravity and mustard just really hate him. We stick to the same, inexpensive shower products and enjoy all our home decor and furniture, even though at least three-quarters of it is secondhand.

But I get extremely uneasy when I think about a potential decrease in income. Things work so well right now. We find small ways to cut back nearly every month, whether it be on the grocery bill or less trips to the Mexican restaurant (I'm going to make some homemade quesadillas tonight) or me finding ways to cut back on the amount of cigarettes I smoke each day (I know... JUST QUIT LISA). There's still a nagging, an anxiety that there's not enough. It makes no sense. When I track our spending almost daily, I see it on the screen: we are blessed. But rarely do I truly feel the sense of contentment that I seek.

So I continue to find it in all the other small blessing in my life that are so easy to ignore. The sounds of the wind blowing outside while the weather is perfect to keep our windows open at home. The creaminess a half a too-ripe banana adds to my morning smoothie because we didn't eat them all last week, and I don't want to throw them out. The comfort of being able to take a break at work while my boss is here, and the strength of my leg muscles that allow a quick walk outside during that break. The pleasure found in losing hours while buried in a good book from the library, or stitching little X's into a crisp sheet of Aida cloth mom found at a thrift store in South Dakota and shipped to me to make me smile. There's a symphony found in contentment, and I'm glad to be alive to explore that more each day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This Post Has Pictures!

I'm in the middle of yoga-only week, and feeling fantastic! I did a DVD on Monday, two of the old DVRed shows from FitTv (I refuse to upgrade to an HD receiver because I don't want to lose all my old taped workout shows!) on Tuesday, my own flow yesterday, and an old podcast I found on the husband's computer this morning. It's been challenging physically and mentally, and also extremely relaxing. I've made time for meditation each morning as well, so the days have been starting off calm and easy. More spiritual food has included some new dharma talk podcasts, and focusing my studies on one aspect of the Eightfold Path each week - this is week two, right intention.

It's interesting to take a step back and observe that while I hope to always have the best of intentions in my action with the world, it's not always the case. Sometimes my intentions are to get what I want from someone, to force someone to have a positive opinion of me or the same opinions regarding my views, to validate my need to feel loved, and other unnecessary or unskillful things that pop up here and there. I tend to just float through these interactions. So taking some time to try to be mindful of what lies beneath some of my habits while remaining nonjudgmental has been tough. It's a struggle to face certain things in myself. But it's rewarding in so many ways, and I know that I want to continue my practice.

Craftiness! Here's a picture of the finished cross-stitch I worked for my Ma!

I framed it and mailed it off to her. The original kit called for stitching, "I don't do mornings!" at the bottom, but she's always been such a good Kitty (and Doggy) Mama that I decided to freestyle this in for her. She loved it! Then she went to one of her local thrift stores and bought like fifty sampler books, tons of fabric, and a few other awesome cross-stitch supplies and shipped them my way. It was better than Christmas!

The husband and I visited James River State Park near Amherst, VA this past weekend. It's always been one of my favorite parks. I've tubed from Canoe Landing to Dixon Landing a few times, but this time we decided to participate in a guided canoe trip instead. It was super cheap and made a lot more sense than the other options we were considering. Plus, we'd never canoed together before and it'd been a while since either of us were in Scouts or 4H camp, so we are taking baby steps. The guide, Courtney, was a great leader and led our group underneath the railroad tracks through an old aqueduct. Super spooky and gorgeous. We spent the rest of our time at the park cooking up tasty campfire food (I freaking love breakfast quesadillas!), fishing a little bit (I caught a teeny fish!), reading, and I worked more on a Christmas cross-stitch gift. This was the view from the door of our tent:

It was a gorgeous site in the primitive Canoe Landing area. The only thing primitive about this section is that there's only a privy close by, and you have to drive to a bathhouse for running water or hot showers. Which isn't primitive; it's awesome.

Also, I set that tent up all by myself! Jeff had to work a full day, but I took leave and enjoyed a peaceful, gorgeous, slightly adventurous drive out there in the early afternoon. I did have some help from a really cool camp neighbor to get the rainfly over the top, which was great because I got a little stuck there haha.

Not much else is going on. Evenings have consisted of getting some dinner prepared, trying to do a chore or two, and then watching our favorite TV shows on our favorite couch. We're huge on Big Brother and are watching Under the Dome because Jeff read the book, though he insists it's nothing like the book. There's also been a lot of this happening in the evenings:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Current Craft Happenings and Finding Balance On and Off the Mat

Random things going on!

I finished a pretty detailed cross-stitch gift for my Ma a couple of days ago, and framed it the other night with an old 5x7 I had laying around the house. It fit perfectly, which is crazy awesome. I'm going to post a pic soon, but not until after I get it mailed out to her. She doesn't check my blog as far as I know, but I'd be super peeved if she caught a glimpse of it online before she gets the chance to open her package wondering, "What could this be?" and then being all proud and smiley when she unwraps it. Some things are way better in person than online. Most things, in fact. Bad porn is probably better online than in person though.

Other fun crafts in progress include a wall hanging that my Aunt lent me instructions for, and plans for a quilted drying mat for my smoothie cup and our coffee mugs, so I can stop using a bajillion paper towels each day. I got some pretty fat quarters for the drying mat, and it should be an easy project and great opportunity to try binding again.

I've been loving my body lately and remembering to exercise for fun instead of to attain a body that is not attainable with my genetics and love of beer. I finished up the Lean Circuit of ChaLean Extreme, which was fantastic and helped me make some strength gains. I had to move 20' sticks of 2-1/2" and 3" copper pipe earlier at work today, and amazed myself by handling the 2-1/2" on my own. I used to struggle big-time with 2" twenty-footers. Lifting heavy things safely is fun.

So, I started a new round of Jillian's Body Revolution because I had a lot of fun with the rotation last summer. I've already found myself a little too in-my-head about it, though. My goal is to do the strength workouts each week and do the cardio at least once, and do my own cardio on the other cardio day. But what if I burn out? Her cardio is so tough! Ugh, I'm being a baby. I can do her cardio at least once per week. But I need to be easy on myself, so I don't get obsessive about my body! But if I'm too easy on myself, I'm going to gain weight and that would be the end of the world! No, no it wouldn't be. Stop being ridiculous. Yes, my head is always deliberating in this way. Especially when I sit down to meditate and hope to find my quiet mind. Haha.

So I'm going to try to compromise. I love structure with my workouts, because I don't like waking up at 3:30am and making decisions. About anything. But I like when I'm able to take it easy and be happy with myself without having to go all-out, full-on, hardcore with fitness. This is also much safer for my body, in the present and in the long run. I'm concerned about my body's mobility and resistance to injury above all the other junk that is constantly spewed at me in these workout videos and fitness blogs. My compromise is this: I will complete each two-week segment of Body Revolution as planned. Scheduled strength workouts and one day of the cardio. If I feel like doing additional cardio on a 6th day, I will do it, but if I don't, I won't beat myself up. I don't think I am overtraining, but I know I've been close a few times - which violates the whole, mobility-and-injury-prevention-above-all-else thing. After each two-week session, I will take a week off and do yoga. Nothing but yoga. I already do really gentle yoga nearly every day following a workout, but a week of yoga will be so refreshing and really help me to focus on self-love and opening up to each present moment throughout my day.

With greater self-control in some areas of my life, I find that I lose self-control in others. I always thought that losing weight would be THE SOLUTION for me. It turns out it led to more feelings of inadequacy, and that if I don't take care of my mind, it will always want to obsess about something that's not worth obsessing about.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Food Issues and Fairy Angels

I read a blog post, linked by a friend on Facebook yesterday that brought me to tears. Your Fairy Angel wrote an amazing post extending a heartfelt apology to her former clients at a popular weight loss company. It's long, but it's a great read. For those who want a summary, she basically explains how while she had the best intentions, she came to realize that her job was to help her clients lose weight - which they did through her services - but then gain it back when they stopped using the services. Pretty much, the clients learned that they had to stick with this company to keep the weight that they were so desperate to lose away. She also describes helping clients who clearly didn't need to lose weight or body fat, or who were there because of pressure from parents or peers. I have so much respect for this blogger, and the post came at a time when I really needed to read it. I needed a reminder that almost all the weight loss information out there is complete bull.

I'm sure you've heard: diets are horrible, because they work, but then when you stop the diet, you gain all the weight back and usually more. Chronic dieting can lead to thyroid and metabolic disorders. It just makes no sense to deprive your body of the fuel it needs to keep each wonderful cell and function operational. Many of us, though, have grown up hearing more often that dieting will somehow lead to happiness in some form.

This go-round, I have kept what I always considered my, "extra weight," off for four years. That's incredible. I attribute this to the fact that I was determined that each change I made with exercise and nutrition, I would be able to stick with for life. I followed all the suggestions to make lifestyle changes instead of temporary fixes. Yet even with how much more energy I have, how much better I am sleeping regularly, and how much nicer it is to feel generally fit... I still have extremely low self-esteem more than half of the time. I'll go through periods where I'm pleased with my exercise regimen, accepting of my cravings for treats, and proud of my strength gains. But more often, I still deal with guilt each time I skip a planned workout (even when I make it up later!), anger when my pants are tighter in the afternoon than in the morning (hormones!), and thoughts about turning to old, unhealthy patterns after I've eaten more than an average portion of any type of food. I've been in a pretty bad rut for about two weeks now. It makes absolutely no sense. Some days, I get frustrated with myself for not seeing what is true, and then I deal with the frustration by eating more or some other subtle self-sabotage. Makes no sense, but I know there are lots of folks out there who feel me on this.

Your Fairy Angel's post reminded me that in this moment, I can accept myself. I can accept that I'm still trying to wear pants that are a size too small. I can accept that I'm lying to myself when I say that I'm counting calories again, "to see where I need to increase certain nutrients in my diet." I can accept that a 1200 calorie goal is really, really unhealthy, especially when I've been doing crazier cardio and heavier weights. I can accept that the lifestyle changes I really could make are the ones that I'm most avoiding admitting, like drinking a 12-pack of beer every weekend and using Monopoly as an excuse to get McDonald's three times in a week. I can still have beer and McDonald's, and I likely will want to enjoy these things forever, but moderation has never been a strength of mine. Avoiding this truth in this moment doesn't help anything, but neither does beating myself up mentally for the choices I've made in past moments. Accepting my body as healthy, loving it and filling it with my spiritual light, and taking a few moments to breathe deeply and drench each cell with oxygen are all a lot more helpful. So is being grateful for bloggers like Your Fairy Angel and other people in the world who are willing to speak truth.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Morning Intentions

I love the idea of writing down my intentions each morning, but it's not something I practice regularly. This morning, while trying to remain present during my shower instead of letting my insanely frantic mind run away with images of the past and future, I decided I'd write down my intentions in the kitchen before heading out the door... then totally forgot during my busied morning routine. So I thought, I'll blog them! I love blogging.

Then my typically one-hour commute turned into two hours because of what was likely a really bad accident. I stayed present with my impatience and sent out kind thoughts to all who were involved. I had to pee. Really, really badly. I thought about opening my car door and the back driver's side door and popping a squat between them. I thought about emptying my coffee cup and peeing in it and trying to dump it out the window enough times to drain my bladder. I thought about how horrible it made my body feel. I thought about how much I hate driving such a long distance to work, and how unfair it is that so many jobs I've applied for aren't giving me a chance, and how most of them are only posted for show anyways because they already know who they're going to hire because so-and-so knows so-and-so, and my blood boiled with anger and my eye started twitching and... you get the picture. I'm really hormonal this week, which isn't helping anything.

Then I got to work, late, which my boss is more than understanding about. He's a really good guy, and one of the few reasons I haven't just quit this job to work at Walmart until I find something in social work. Work has been insane. I can't even go into detail. Just insane. Maniacal laughter insane. In fact, I started on this blog entry two hours ago. And when the UPS guy just dropped off a next-day-air package, he told me that he's got more than twenty boxes for us at our regular delivery time. MANIACAL LAUGHTER INSANE.

But anyways, the point is this: I am now going to write down some daily intentions. To keep me focused. To sink my roots a little more deeply into today.

  • I intend to remain in the present moment, even the hormonally-charged, blood-boiling moments. I intent to meet all these emotions with an open heart and shine light on them, rather than trying to shove past them and keep them in the dark.
  • I intend to stretch my body out again at some point. Already did some yoga but my muscles are super sore. In a good way.
  • I intent to make at least five people smile today, and at least three people laugh.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Road Trip to Philly, Kayaking, and Missing Home

I took a road trip on my own to the Philadelphia area over this long weekend. My dad's side of the family lives up there, and I haven't been able to see them as often as I would like throughout my life. I was also craving a good, long car ride by myself and a little time away from home. I don't always feel great at home, because I'm constantly thinking of the ways that I should be more productive there, and imagining that I'm failing at keeping everything completely clean and well-kept. This is pretty delusional, because the house stays clean and my husband and I do a really good job at keeping everything up inside and outside. Anyways, so that was my motivation for heading out for a few days.

I had a blast! I truly enjoyed the drive up on Thursday. There weren't too many people traveling, and I took Route 301 through Maryland and over the Annapolis Bay Bridge, which I don't think I've done before. What a cool bridge! There were hundreds of sailboats out in the bay, which looked really pretty from so high on the bridge. I enjoyed a nice long lunch break at the funniest McDonalds on Kent Island, that has murals of carrots and tomatoes on the walls, because of course everyone wakes up and thinks, "I really want some carrots today, so I'm gonna head to McD's." My love for McDonalds does not falter, though. I forgive them.

I was able to head straight to my cousin's house for their cookout, complete with deliciously grilled meats, awesome slaws, ice cream cake, and lots of time in the sunshine. It was really nice catching up with everyone, and I made some plans with my aunt and uncle for the following day before heading home with Gramma for a quiet evening on the couch. We tried to stay up to watch the Philly fireworks, but who was I kidding? I was passed out on her awesomely firm guest mattress before ten.

Friday morning I woke up earlier than anyone should on a vacation and got ready to walk over to spend the day with my aunt and uncle. I decided I wanted some hot breakfast and looked up the nearest Wawa on my maps app before turning the phone off for the day. On my stroll through Lansdowne towards Wawa, I spotted the little breakfast cafe that Jeff and I had enjoyed on our last visit, and was able to get a delicious bacon and cheddar breakfast sandwich on sourdough with a gigantic coffee. I sat at the window and watched the folks walking by, trying to imagine their stories and honor their presence on the streets that morning. The rest of the walk was filled with interesting little birds flying around and taking delight in all the perfectly trimmed flowers in the yards.

We headed to the Schuylkill River so I could finally try kayaking! I'm glad I googled the river name, because I totally imagined it as "Skoogle." Haha. We paddled almost two miles against the current, which Uncle John kept saying was much stronger than usual since they'd had as much rain as we've had down here in VA. It was tough! I really enjoyed the meditative aspects, though. Not much time to think of anything else except for, is my paddle facing the right way? Why does it feel like my sunscreen wasn't sprayed on in certain places on my arms? How awesome is this swishy swishy noise? We turned and floated back to the landing, which took about a quarter of the time it took to get up the river. So peaceful.

The rest of the day was spent with Aunt Sue in her sewing room, learning little tips and admiring her works (and amazing machine!), reading for a bit on my Gramma's sunporch, and pigging out on delicious tilapia, veggies, and Aunt Sue's delicious baba ghanoush creation from her freshly picked eggplants. Another early night to bed, and I slept like a baby. I slipped in early Saturday to tell her goodbye and admired her little body, curled up in the tiniest ball while she slept. She's still really healthy for someone in their 80s but her body is nonetheless aging. It's beautiful, a little frightening, and reminded me of our connection even though we're normally so far from each other.

I stopped in MD on the way home to have breakfast with my dad and stepmom, which involved even more incredible food! They live on the bay, and it was great to be able to spend a few moments out next to the water before hopping in the car for a very tough ride back home. I'm pretty sure lots of other folks decided to try to beat the traffic by traveling on Saturday instead of Sunday. It was a great opportunity to practice patience and compassion, which I mostly did really poorly with haha, but it was practice.

I arrived home to perfectly cut grass, a powerwashed house and deck, and an amazing, handsome husband sitting in the living room floor doing his least favorite chore: folding laundry. I felt so much well up inside of me, from love and tenderness to a little bit of guilt for leaving him alone all weekend. I just hugged him. A lot. And promised myself I'd remember those feelings and the strong longing I had to be with him and with home while I was gone. I'll remember them when I'm frustrated that the grass is an inch higher than it is when it's freshly cut. I'll remember them when I'm cranky and whiny and just want to sit on the couch instead of straightening up or vacuuming. I'll remember them when I'm tired after a long day and just want to order pizza, but am fortunate enough to have fresh meats and veggies stocking the fridge. I'll remember that those feelings are so much stronger than the avoidance, dread, and frustration that all stem from fear that I'm less than something.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Open Spaces, Distractions, Confusion, Inactions

Tara Brach's latest post over at Wildmind contains a few lines from a really awesome poem by Judy Brown, called "Fire."

What makes a fire burn
is the space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between
as much as the wood...

I haven't read the rest of her post yet, but wanted to zip over here quickly this morning and write a few things out that have been on my mind. I want to insert a little breathing space into my week, because while I've had some, I've also had lots of things, too.

I've been feeling disconnected from my own fire. I'm so spread out right now. I'm getting home before my husband each evening, which is a reversal from how things were before his promotion and my furlough. I get home and aim to do at least two or three things around the house to keep it clean, then start on dinner. I feel so whiny admitting this, but I freakin' hate being a grownup and all the responsibilities that come with it. I want to eat whole foods, so I have to prepare them. I feel more peaceful in a clean house, so I have to maintain that cleanliness. I don't even have any kids and I feel like I'm constantly falling behind. I'm really not. It's hard to remember that sometimes.

My spare time is flaky, bouncing back and forth between studying the incredibly interesting materials I bought to prepare for a group exercise certification, dabbling with my sewing machine and trying to figure out what project I actually want to begin, lifting weights and hopping around in the living room, meditating in brief spurts, and reading. I've been feeling that my lack of focus on any particular thing has been hindering my future. If I don't throw everything into my group ex certification, am I just wasting the money I spent on the study materials? If I keep getting scared to try working with a zipper, will I ever become the expert seamstress that I want to become? Is my mental health suffering because of my lack of consistency with formal meditation? How will I ever become a master at all these things if I can't spend more than an hour at a time working on a single one?!?

I prepared for my day off this week by creating a "Self-Compassion Tuesday To-Do" list, because I freaking love lists and have slowly become okay with the idea that not everything needs to be checked off of them. I created some breathing space between the logs of my fire. I spent a little bit of time studying in the morning, and again in the afternoon. I spent two hours at the library reading and fiddling with a new toy that I can't access wifi with at home. I went to a new yoga studio because the first class is free, and despite my preference for a home practice, it's good to get into a class sometimes and accept a little challenge. I mowed the grass and enjoyed it, because I get to wear my garden tube top and get sun on my shoulders, and because a shower after mowing the grass is always the best shower ever.

I've remained distracted since Self-Compassion Tuesday, but things are feeling a little different. Because I infused the compassion. I have been trying to remind myself that there's no finish line for my fire, aside from the finish line that meets us all in the end. I want my fire to blaze brightly, keep my loved ones warm, and light my life in tons of ways. I don't need to be afraid of it burning for only one passion, because too much of anything will smother. The ways that I skip around from thing to thing are the spaces between my logs.

So with these feelings this morning, I am turning down a few offers for excitement and bustling this evening. I had a friend offer to take me to see Brad Paisley because she doesn't want to go alone and already has a ticket, and yes I will regret passing up on this. I've heard so many good things about Brad Paisley live. Another new friend that hung out with my sister and I last night and engaged in incredible conversations with me wants me to stop by on my way home for some more talking. I want to sew and read and finish a study guide and bend and stretch and sit and dance, but stronger than anything, I feel a pull to just sit and veg out with my husband tonight. Maybe nap a few times before actually going to bed. The space between my logs in this moment is inaction and acceptance, and taking some time to be with myself before getting back into anything else later this weekend.

I hope it's a great weekend for all and that others are able to figure out ways to make spaces between their logs!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The word was CELEBRATE!

I first heard this joke on a podcast from Tara Brach, who has become one of my favorite spiritual teachers since a very dear friend lent me her book Radical Acceptance in 2010. I still have not returned that book, which I am not proud of. I am sometimes a bad borrower. Anyways, the joke:

A young monk arrives at a monastery to begin studying with a well-known elder monk. Upon his arrival, the elder monk put the young monk to work with the other residents, copying the ancient Buddhist texts to dispense to the laymen of their community. The young monk noticed that the books they were copying were actually copies of the original texts, and with concern, approached the elder monk to assert that the monastery should actually copy from the original sutras. The elder monk paused, thought, and agreed, "Yes! We have been copying from copies for years, so many important messages could have been lost in translation along the way. I shall go to the basement to read the original texts and be sure that we've been teaching the correct messages."

The elder monk went to the basement and was gone for several hours. The young monk, concerned for the elder monk's safety, went to the basement to see what had been taking so long. There he found the elder monk banging his head against the wall over and over. "Elder monk! What is wrong?"

The elder monk turned to look at the young monk and stated exasperatedly, "The word was celebrate!"

Hahahaha. I love that. Tara Brach, I believe, was using this story as an example of how we must seek truth and wisdom from our own experiences or direct sources, rather than listening to every interpretation of teachings we come across. I think. But this morning, as I became slightly frustrated with myself for picking up a third cigarette on my drive to work after promising myself I'd only have two, the story came to mind.

I know that smoking is bad for me and those around me. Though I do get a bit of enjoyment at gasping and exclaiming, "Oh no! A wizard gave these to me and said they were health sticks!" when a stranger gives me a reminder. I shouldn't; I know that most people are just trying to be helpful. But mayyyybe some of them just enjoy pointing out others' stupidity (to make themselves feel smart). Anyways, so I know smoking is bad. And I will quit someday. "Someday" is much better than my previous blanket statement on smoking, "Suck my toe; I can smoke if I want, and I enjoy it, so I'm never quitting." I am getting some wisdom as I get deeper into adulthood.

For now, I am trying to reduce the number of cigarettes I smoke in a day. I had great success with this in college, when having a monthly income of $38 forced me to limit my daily cigarettes to ten or less. I'd write out my schedule for the following day and plan my cigarettes for the most stressful or relaxing times, which are the times when I most enjoy puffing on a stick of death. I smoke about a pack a day as a moneymaking adult, though. That's twenty. Sometimes more if I'm more stressed, like during a particularly shitty workday, or more relaxed, like during a particularly fun night out with my girlfriends. And beer.

So to improve my lung capacity, reduce the guilt I encounter for adding my daily vice into our monthly budget planning, and increase the chances of successfully quitting someday, I am trying to cut back again. I like to break my long-term goals into smaller attainable goals. My commute is a major trigger for chain-smoking. It's an hour at minimum, and I have little landmarks where I'd usually light one up. I usually smoked three on the way into work, and four on the way home. I'm working on two cigarettes in each direction now. Monday and Tuesday this week were a great triumph! I'm pretty sure I only smoked fourteen cigarettes all day yesterday. That's like 30% less than usual. Boom. I felt so great about it when I woke up.

So while driving into work, I hit my fourth landmark (and had only smoked two cigarettes). I started justifying all the reasons it would be "smart" to smoke a cigarette then rather than waiting until I got to work, when I inevitably smoke a good-morning cigarette with the boss. I told myself that I deserved that extra commute cigarette, dammit. I lit it up. It wasn't easy. I actually spilled coffee during my inner argument - all over the car and my pants - and then dropped my lighter on the floorboard and had to pull over, get out of the car, and retrieve it. A more superstitious Lisa might have thought the universe was trying to tell me something. But this morning's Lisa was like, "JUST GET IN MY MOUTH AND BE LIT, NEWPORT!" Then I smoked it and felt incredible guilty. I almost let the wave of guilt taint my mood as I entered work. Then I remembered the story.

I have so much to celebrate. I made it through two whole days smoking half the cigarettes I would normally smoke on my way to work. I have cut down on drinking and a ton of other things that negatively affected my health for many years. I'm using mindfulness to pay attention when someone tells me that I'm doing something unhealthy. I'm using mindfulness to be fully present in each uncomfortable moment, when my chest is tight and my throat is sore, when before I'd easily brush these indicators off and tell myself that I'm too badass to care about the future of my body and relationships.

The word is celebrate, not celibate.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Acceptance of Furlough

I'm not in the Civil Service. I work as a contractor through a private company that manages distribution and material acquisition for several military bases and other institutions across the United States. I was informed around two months ago that I would be taking unpaid leave, one day per pay period. This was upsetting, but I immediately thought of all the ways it could be worse. We are our company's only branch with only two employees. Every other branch lost at least one employee, so if we had a third worker here, I would have likely been let go completely. Our home office could have made the decision to lay me off and hire someone else at less pay. My husband and I have done a great job at merging our finances and planning some serious debt repayment, and as far as I'm concerned, if I'm not going farther into debt, I'm doing well.

The outcome of The Budget Control Act of 2011 and its effects on civilian employees has been up in the air for some time. A lot of my friends here on base have received their furlough notices in the past week, though, and there's a noticeable air of disappointment and anxiety in the air. These folks are going to have to deal with a larger cut in pay than I'm dealing with, and most of them have children or other family to support. Most are concerned about how they'll get by with basic necessities. I'm really just pissed off that I won't be able to go to as many wine festivals this summer.

However, today a notice showed up to our branch informing my boss and myself that beginning in July, employees will be paying an additional $50 per pay period towards health insurance. The company explained a "substantial decline" in sales revenue due to the Sequestration as the reasoning behind this action. So my pay will be cut - again - and it's becoming a lot harder not to take things personally.

Don't they see that my boss and I are busting ass to bring in more sales than some of the other branches with more employees? Don't they know how hard we worked and the relationships we built with folks down here to secure our new, five-year contract? Don't they realize how devastated our branch would be if my boss and I both decided to leave the company? Even if just one of us decided to leave. We have a great system going here, and for a long time I was able to feel pride in helping save the government money on material acquisitions while continuing to practice excellent customer service with customers who aren't always happy with how quickly some materials can be delivered. This was important to me. I went to school for social work and truly want to help individuals. Even though I left the profession because of my fears relating to my abilities seven years ago, I was still able to feel helpful here. Doesn't my company know how lucky they are to have me? Why aren't they making cuts elsewhere before deciding to take my earnings?

It's so easy to take it personally. Our company is classified as a small business, and I expect the attention and care from management that one might receive in a small business. However, classification as a small business doesn't mean that employees will be made to feel important. Anywhere. Companies stay afloat because they prioritize making money. I really don't understand much about capitalism or economics, but I know that I'm just a name on a roster at our home office.

Here are some things that are helping me accept the recent changes in my earnings here at work:

  • Gratitude - Again, the company could just as easily find someone to replace me and pay them less - probably much less - than I am being paid, even with my cuts. We could be in a worse financial situation at home in various ways. My boss is completely supportive of my efforts to look for a new job. These are all things that I can be grateful for in each moment. All these things make the sting a little less sharp.
  • Impermanence - Every situation in life passes, whether we want it to or not. During rough times in my life, times that seem unbearable, I can remember that I'll look back on this as another period of time in my overall existence. Impermanence sucks when I want joyful, happy situations to last forever - but it's helpful to acknowledge when I need a reminder that this will pass.
  • Connectedness - There are dozens of people that I know personally and have love for up and down this hall, and they're going through this too. Sometimes the strongest surges of anger and resentment come when I focus on, "me, me, me, MY pain, MY struggle." We are all suffering creatures in similar and different forms.
  • Trust - I fully trust that life will move forward. The earth will keep spinning, there will be more struggles throughout my life, but there will be victories and moments of joy as well. Letting go of what I can't control comes when I trust that things will work out in one way or another. It's easy to think that things have to go the way I anticipate them, but that's a fallacy I tell myself and only leads to more suffering. Sometimes not getting what we want means that something better is coming along.
  • Strength - I don't feel very strong right now. But through experience, I have learned that my biggest gains in mental and emotional strength only come through struggle and pain. I've been jamming out to Kacey Musgraves' album this morning, and the first song reminds me that we can only see a silver lining if we're willing to experience a cloudy day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Opening Up

As I sit glancing at the clock, telling myself a story about how our mindfulness group's leader is completely selfish for keeping us until 7:03pm when group is supposed to be finished at 7:00pm, she tells us our homework for the week: notice and pay attention to when we find ourselves being impatient. She knows I have over an hour to drive home. She takes our money and smiles, and I am severely offended that it is now 7:04pm and she's still talking about impatience. Another student asks for a handout that she mentioned earlier in the session, and she asks if we wouldn't mind waiting for her to print a few copies. I stand up in a huff and exclaim, "I have to go! I have a long drive!" and quickly hustle out of the room as the other students quietly say, "Goodbye, Lisa!" I get into my car and the tears start to flow. Impatience. I have to laugh when I realize that I was completely caught up in a fit of impatience while she was asking us to be aware of these precise instances.

I had been keeping a pretty big secret from the group about my reasons for wanting to attend an eight-week group mindfulness course.

This week I returned to group, resolving to share. I've gotten a pretty big head about group. I'm one of the younger members, and have already been studying and practicing mindfulness for about three years. Our leader, Dr. P., occasionally turns to me and asks for my opinion when another group member needs help understanding a concept. It's just like when I was in first grade, and the teacher would ask me to come up and read to the class while she graded papers. I was very prideful. If I shared this piece of myself with my group, I knew that their opinions of me would change. They would see that I have a pretty embarrassing and immature flaw. I hadn't even let myself cry in group. In fact, I spent most of the time in group judging the older members and hoping that I have my shit together by the time I'm their ages.

Hypocrite. Open up to this. If I'm allowed to sit in silent judgment, then they have the right to see my uglies too. And judge however they choose. Their judgment will have absolutely no effect on my ability to overcome my personal obstacles. This awareness gives me a sense of guilt and also freedom.

So, I tell everyone that I am struggling. I tell them that while I appear so functional, put-together, mindful, and aware... I am crippled by fear inside. I am blanketed in attachment to the way things used to be, and feel unable to move forward and let old parts of myself fall away. I begin to cry, a lot, and I don't fight it because I remember when Andrea told me that the only time someone is ugly when they're crying, is when they're trying to stop crying. I look around. Everyone in the group is listening to me with loving, understanding eyes. A few are nodding encouragingly. Dr. P. thanks me for sharing and reveals that she carried the same youthful struggles into her adulthood. I feel warm and connected to each member, and wonder if maybe I'll hang out after session and get to know someone a little more.

But she keeps us until 7:05pm and I have such a long drive haha.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sitting Still

I'm so antsy! Ancy? Antsy. Haha.

Lisa Life is going really well lately. Yet I still find it so hard to be in the present moment. I'm currently switching between tabs to catch up on my Feedly, continuously check my Facebook messages to see if a friend has messaged me back about some free theme park tickets (that we plan to use IN JUNE), gchat the husband about my night of incredible sleep, and looking through old pictures. Oh, and I read the recap from last night's Game of Thrones episode even though we won't watch until tonight - I never read the recaps beforehand! I usually have plenty of restraint. Now I won't even be surprised at what they do to poor Theon.

But I'm antsy. I have so much energy. Not like body energy. Just awake energy. Body wants to sit its ass in this chair for the next hour and a half, and then sit its ass in the Bluick seats for the hour and fifteen minutes it will take to get home. See, look! Can't even talk about the present moment without relating it to some future moments lol.

Weekly mindfulness group counseling has been amazing. We meet for our fourth of eight sessions tomorrow. I think that attending the sessions has kind of led me to believe that I'm so on top of my mindfulness practice, that I don't have to do shit for practice the rest of the week. So I haven't been sitting. Or reading my Buddhist stuff. Or even really listening to the mindfulness bell app when it dings from my phone. It seems like I've gotten to this delusional place where I believe I have hit some kind of finish line.

The only finish line is death, and I'm definitely not there yet. I feel incredibly alive.

I'm grateful that I'm taking some moments here, now and bringing a little bit of awareness to my day. I'm grateful that I'm doing it because I just had an urge, and not because I feel on the brink of a breakdown or in the rut of depression.

I'm grateful for this antsy, distracted, anxious tummy moment.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Where Is It

I'm finding it difficult to find a voice about anything this week. That could be because there is a lot going on in life that it's best to keep my mouth shut about. I have been feeling inadequate in several areas of my life, but at the same time have been finding new levels of contentment and resting with these inadequacies.

It amazes me that while we feel the need to be constantly busy, constantly pushing ourselves to be as close to perfection as possible - it turns out that when we let go of all that business, we still get important shit done. Life doesn't stop. The world doesn't stop rotating, or get knocked off its axis. Sure, I wish my spring cleaning were coming along more quickly, and that I were closer to feeling prepared to test for my group fitness certification... but I also wish that I had more time to relax on the couch with my husband, and that I can become more comfortable with the amazing woman I already am.

I start my weekly volunteer hours this week! I'm going to do an afternoon office shift on Fridays at my county's helping organization. They manage the food bank, clothes closet, and a furniture barn - and the amount of households in the county they are serving is both shocking and exciting. It's very naive, but I was surprised when I learned that close to ten percent of homes in our county don't even have running water. I'm happy to be able to spare a few hours and support the organization.

I've attended two of eight weekly mindfulness-focused group counseling sessions. So far the information has been repetitive, but it's given me a new focus on informal mindfulness practices throughout my day. I've been reaching out with lovingkindness a bit more, too. I've been working on cultivating the habit of wishing metta to all the people around me every time I stop at a stoplight. It's a nice break from my typical commuting angst and a good reminder that I can find that peace in each moment.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My husband's grandmother died this week, and it's been sad. She was an important part of our family. I wish I had learned more from her about my husband's ancestry, needlework, and how to be completely, authentically kind. I promised on her obituary guestbook to always look out for her family. I love them so much, and I'm so thankful to have them here.

I attended the first session of an 8-week mindfulness counseling group last night. I was so excited to find a therapist in the area that specializes in mindfulness. It's got so many similarities to cognitive-behavioral therapy, but I really wanted to work with someone who studies mindfulness practices from various sources. I want some counseling with a little injection of spirituality right now. I have gone to counseling several times but rarely stuck with anything for more than a few months. I like that this group only lasts for eight weeks.

Membership in this temporary group involves making a commitment to practice mindfulness for at least five minutes daily, preferably using seated meditation. I can commit to five minutes. My meditation practice has been dwindling for over a year now. I feel nervous about failing at this commitment, but oh well. If I fail and miss a day here and there, it won't kill anyone. As my tendencies to criticize and dehumanize myself are reduced, my desire to do these good things for myself will increase.

I'm grocery planning for next week. I ordered flowers for Memaw's funeral. I am moving. I am flowing. Life is going to take me on a wild course over the next few years, and I am ready to ride.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Just Need to Write...

I'm attempting to break a pretty bad habit that I've been carrying for about fifteen years... half of my life. And I hate to be cryptic, but I have to be right now. Don't stress; there's nothing exciting or scandalous involved. I just want to keep this part of my life private. I think I've always loved my secrets... but that doesn't really contribute to my authenticity. It's time to let this secret go. And while I go through the separation anxiety, I must write.

I powerwalked my first solo 5K yesterday! I've done a few races with friends, but was eager to see what kind of time I would make if left to my own motivation and pace. I figured that as long as I kept walking and didn't outright stop, I would finish in less than an hour. I hoped to finish in less than fifty minutes. I ended up with a time between 42 and 43 minutes! I jogged a few stretches and really enjoyed myself. It shouldn't be too difficult to do some training and get my time under forty minutes before the end of this summer. I read a fantastic article last week about how to maintain motivation after losing weight, rather than getting frustrated at the inevitable plateaus and reverting back to old behaviors or habits. It's helpful to shift your focus away from goals like, "I want to drop a dress size," or, "I want to lose five more pounds," and begin to aim for fitness-specific goals like doing a pull-up or speed and distance improvements. I'm still pushing to finish a rotation of ChaLean Extreme, but afterwards I'd like to do some distance training and heavy lifting a few days per week.

ATMOSPHERE IS TOURING THIS SUMMER!!! I got two tickets for their show at Pocahontas State Park, since husband wants to come too. I've always wanted to see an outdoor Atmosphere concert, so this should be a treat. I'm not sure that alcohol will be allowed since it's a VA State Park... but that would be okay I guess. We could even CAMP! Except once I'd bought the tickets, I realized that the shows are scheduled during the week in August that my boss takes off every year. Lame. The Richmond show is a Wednesday night, and I also picked up one ticket for their show in Charlotte, NC that Saturday night. My original plan was to take a long weekend and drive down to visit a best friend who is currently in the process of moving out there, but now I might have to try to make it a weekend trip. I'll figure it out when the time is closer, and just geek out over the fact that I'll get to see a show this year in the meantime. Atmosphere!

Not much else is going on. My husband had a few of his friends come visit for the weekend, and he had a great time showing off his skills in the kitchen for them. We had some yummy teriyaki chicken for lunch on Saturday, and FOUR delicious whole wheat pizzas for dinner. He also put some love into chocolate chip cookies and a delightful broccoli salad for Sunday family dinner. We're heading to a friend's potluck this upcoming weekend, and he's already decided that he wants to do the broccoli salad again - it's so yummy! It was so nice to see him proud when he discovered that the dish had been scraped clean during dinner. Love that man!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

2013 SAAM Day of Action - Possible Sexual Assault Triggers

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and April 2nd is a nationally recognized day of action for the movement. The NSVRC website states that today, "provides an opportunity for prevention advocates to engage with their communities." And here I write. I can share a blog entry. I feel a deep urge to participate today, and while I didn't plan to attend a march or speak to a group, I have this blog. My gift is small, but it feels good to give anything.

I read a lot of blogs about sexual assault, and I've yet to fully agree or disagree with anyone's guesses on why it happens or what we can do to keep it from happening. There are so many opinions out there. There's also a ton of information and statistics that detail how incredibly harmful the issue is for all humans. The psychological studies are fascinating, though depressing.

My opinions are based on my experiences as a sexual assault survivor, and my experiences with rape culture.

I'm a survivor of several types of sexual abuse and assault. I am friends with several women who are also survivors of multiples types. I'm friends with women who were sexually abused as children but still cannot acknowledge that it happened. I'm friends with women who were sexually assaulted as adults, but still hold themselves accountable despite clearly saying, "NO!"

I imagine that many young women exhibit the same patterns that I followed. Following my first sexual assault as a woman (15 years old), I began to believe that men were going to take my body no matter how I acted or what I wore. I had tried dressing sexily to get attention from the boys. According to everything I was watching on TV, the only way to get power was to be desired, and then manipulate those who desire you. When my stepdad called me slutty, and other parents told their kids that I was going to be raped if I didn't wear more modest clothing, I figured I'd better straighten up. I didn't want to get raped! So I wore jeans and t-shirts for a while.

I was wearing plaid pajama pants and an oversized t-shirt when I was first sexually assaulted as a young adult. So I learned that I couldn't dress to avoid rape. I learned that something else must be wrong with me. I was trying to be the powerful one, but somehow this guy had taken control in so many ways. There was some other weakness that men could pick up on, so I had to be stronger.

Here's where I made the shift that I thought would keep me safe. I took my new label as "slut" and embraced it with passion. If I couldn't physically keep myself safe from sexual assault, then I'd keep myself safe with an attitude. An attitude that focused on women having as much right to sleep around as men. A belief that I enjoyed taking advantage of men the way that many took advantage of women. If I got too drunk and woke up after a one-night stand, I could just convince myself that I'd been the one to initiate the sexual encounter. If I were enjoying touching or kissing, and then the guy wanted to go farther, it was easier to pretend to be a nymphomaniac than to come up with a reason to ask him to stop. It was very simple to convince myself that I always wanted sex. In this way, no sex was ever assault, because even if I'd said no, I was just mistaken - I always wanted sex.

I don't have any one person or event to blame for the ways I've mistreated my mind and body in the past. I don't even regret most of my meaningless sexual encounters, though I do regret not seeing the true motivations behind them in those moments. I regret that most of us don't see our true motivations in each moment. I'm sure that my assaulters could have made different decisions if they'd taken a few moments to examine their true motives. They were never trying to accomplish a goal like, "Force myself on this young woman and give her years of restless sleep, nightmares, guilty and conflicting feelings, PTSD." Something else was going on there.

So while I've moved forward with my life in many ways, attended therapy and worked through many of my sexual assault issues, and even entered an incredibly safe and loving marriage - I'm also stuck back in time with that rapist, and the several assaulters who came after him. I'm hoping that everyone can stop yelling at each other. Stop blaming victims for being raped simply because they dressed a certain way or had too much to drink (raise your hand if you had to experiment to discover your limits - or that your limit is NO alcohol). And stop screaming at rapists to die or to cut off their own genitalia. We're living in a really confusing society and are descendant from beings who had to rely on their physical instincts for everything. No, I do not forgive perpetrators of sexual violence - but I do wish that they had access to more affordable, less stigmatized mental health care.

This entry is jumpy. I have so many other thoughts that bounce off these, and simply writing this out has gotten a ton of things stirring around in my head that had been resting complacently for a while. My action this afternoon is to sit with these thoughts and offer my love to each one. It's a Day of Action, even if that action is inaction.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Adventures in PMS

I went to sleep last night delighted at being able to set my alarm for 5:00am instead of the usual 3:30am. It was snowing, and I'd already asked my boss if I could come in a few hours later, once the sun came up and started de-slushing everything.

3:30am - wake up, hear the stupid chit-chat-chit-chat of the over-the-door towel rack bumping lightly against the bathroom door. Get out of bed, move towel between rack and door, return to bed.

5:00am - alarm goes off. Jeff mumbles, "I love you baby," through the drool on his pillow and I mumble back, "I'm not fucking getting up!" I lie there for approximately seventeen more seconds while my brain argues with no one about why I should get up and do my workout. Get out of bed and put on workout clothes.

5:40am - finish workout. Rejoice! Bask in good feelings and sweaty yoga stretches!

5:50am - shower

6:15am - see Jeff's delicious sandwich he's made for his lunch. Ask if he made my sandwich too, since he already had all the sandwich materials out. Stomp off and cry in the bathroom when he tells me guiltily, "No," because apparently if your husband doesn't make you a sandwich, you are worthless.

6:20am - bitch at Jeff for not making me a sandwich, and also for pulling his khakis out of the dryer to avoid wrinkling but leaving all other clothes inside the dryer for future dealing with.

6:25am - cry more in the bathroom because Jeff is dealing with a really stressful work situation this week, and here I am bitching about some fucking wrinkly jeans. When I happen to have a FANTASTIC iron that I love to use, anyways. Feel guilty, put on extra makeup because my bitch voice is pointing out my elevated-hormone zits in the mirror.

7:00am - hug Jeff and tell him how proud I am of all he's accomplishing at work. Yay, good wife! Thank him for adding some music to my ipod that I'd been wanting.

7:20am - get in car, plug in ipod, listen to Trisha Yearwood's Greatest Hits. (We've been watching her cooking show lately.)

7:21am - CRY HYSTERICALLY BECAUSE YEAH, SHE'S IN LOVE WITH THE BOY! And Walkaway Joe. And The Song Remembers When.

7:39am - seemingly returned to neutral mood. Get cut off by a dickface in a black Nissan. Invent three new curse words, make my car scared of me.

7:52am - still in car. Think about a pun that someone said over the weekend. Laugh and shriek crazily for four minutes, feel giddy.

7:56am - Think about the fact that some of my friends will someday die. Scrunch face up and cry unattractively for ten minutes.

8:15ish - Arrive at work. Put on customer service smile and congratulate myself on meeting all those moments without fighting them. So what if I might be acting like someone who needs to be institutionalized? I feel beautiful when I act genuinely.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Group Fitness Certification - Who Knows?

The week has been pretty fantastic! I've got a lot of energy and excitement right now, as I've just ordered my study guides to take the ACE Group Exercise Instructor Certification. I plan to test by the end of June this year. I don't know where it will take me. I don't see myself becoming a full-time exercise instructor. But something within me is shifting, finally accommodating the last few years' changes and motion. I love the people I work with in my full-time job. But I need something more. I'd love to become certified and start teaching one or two evening classes through the YMCA. The Upper Peninsula branches have very few classes, and two branch directors have been encouraging about the possibility of me bringing some Turbo Kick or other high-energy classes to their areas.

Who knows?

I don't. Not in this moment.

That had me halted at the stop sign. So often I'll have an idea, and start speeding down the highway of imagination and possibilities, until that one big worry catches in my mind and STOP! I obey that voice and freeze right there. What if I spend all this money on the study materials and test, and then it never leads to anything? What if I can't find any classes to teach in such a rural area? What if no one will hire me because I don't look like most fitness instructors? What if I put in all this hard work only to find life staring blankly back at me, silently saying, "Did you really think you could do this? Fitness isn't yours. You're just leasing this hobby."

Who cares?

I don't. Not in this moment.

But I do know that I'll gain some knowledge. I'll get more time to immerse myself in something I've been building a great passion towards. I'll learn about anatomy and the different ways that our amazing bodies help us move and live. My home practice will thrive as I learn more about how each movement works large and small parts of my muscles, how to protect my bones and prevent injury, and I'll get some great education on leadership and motivation.

Maybe more will come of it.

For now, I'm going to enjoy the excitement in this moment. I'm going to keep learning to move when it's time to move, and rest in stillness when it's time to rest. This way, I'll be better prepared to meet all those other terrifying moments as they arise.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Page views!

I got some page views! That's because I'm a member of a pretty awesome community. Video Fitness Forum is a great place to visit if you're into exercise and fitness DVDs, online workouts, or general fitness. I use it to check out reviews for any exercise videos I'm thinking of buying, though I have to admit that visiting the site sends my WANTWANTWANT into overdrive, and I'm kind of trying to avoid that lately. But I check in daily on a neat thread that lets you set a long list of the month's dates, then edit it to fill in each date with the workout you did that day.

I really like the visual effect of seeing my workouts stack up. I'm slacking on my ChaLean Extreme rotation, taking a little longer to get through all the workouts. This can lead to a completely irrational nagging within, that little voice inside that is constantly NOT ENOUGH. She takes over really easily on days that I skip a morning workout. It's hard for me to maintain true perspective when my NOT ENOUGH voice has the mic. But - even with a few days rest, seeing the workouts listed as the month progresses helps me realize that I am doing enough. I'm doing more than enough to meet my intentions.

I've got some updates on our home's 36 in 365 list - for those who don't know, 36 in 365 is an alternative to writing a list of New Year's Resolutions. It focuses more on positive experiences by listing 36 things that you want to do in the next year. We keep ours light, trying to include "bucket list" items that we've always wanted to try. Jeff and I came up with 24 things we want to do together, and each of us wrote six personal goals.

Our first check mark was made when we purchased our new mattress. We love our spines now.

I made a check mark this weekend by sewing my first skirt! I used a simple tutorial but can't figure out where I originally found it. I was browsing on the smartphone a while back and downloaded a pdf. I probably wouldn't link to the tutorial anyways though, because bitch did not take into account that women have curves. Or else it was a pattern tutorial for kids' clothes. Whatevs, the tutorial instructed me to measure around my waist (plus an inch for seam allowance) and that would be the length of my rectangular pattern. Measure length from waist, add two inches, and that would be the width of my rectangular pattern. I totally tried this, cut the fabric out, and realized there was no way the skirt would come up over my hips once sewn. Duh!

Take two: I only had half my yard of fabric left, and while it was a perfect length to wrap around my hips and booty, I was afraid I wouldn't have enough length to cover the goods. I tried anyways, and it worked out perfectly! I did well with the seam (I wear it at the back), stitched a casing for the elastic, threaded 1/2" elastic through the waist and joined it together with a zig zag stitch. The top gathers up a bit and fits really comfortably. It's super short, but I like that every once in a while, and it'll be great to wear with a bathing suit. I wore it over some black leggings with a black turtleneck sweater on Saturday and got some great compliments on it! I have always wanted to receive a compliment on an article of clothing I'd made for myself. So proud of myself! Here's a blurry picture that I took to send my aunt and prove that it was beneficial to give me her old sewing machine:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dedicating My Fitness Efforts

One of my random trips through the world of blogs yesterday led me to a fantastically worded article called Exercise Is Meaningless, in which mindfulness-based personal trainer Gentoku McCree describes how he began to use an exercise dedication. He's spent time living in a Zen monastery and noted that the attendees would recite a dedication before each activity. When he left the monastery, he found that his actions lacked depth that he'd experienced with these dedications.

Sometimes I don't even know if I'm honest with myself about why I exercise. Yes, I have always wanted to appear thin and slim, and wear the tightest, sexiest clothes without worrying about what someone might say or think about my appearance. I've done a lot of work to identify the reasons behind this desire, dig into underlying fears, recognize the irrationalities behind these fears, and admit that the desire is causing more harm than benefit. I lost fifty pounds - a quarter of my body weight - and kept it off. But the desire to look thinner has caused much more harm than the health benefits that arise from dropping those extra pounds. There was little difference in how I felt about myself before and after losing such a significant amount of weight. I was still completely unhappy with my body and appearance, even fifty pounds lighter, even with countless friends and family expressing pride and amazement as I met each goal.

I have spent the past couple of years trying to focus more on mindfulness, both to observe where my thoughts try to take me (and where I usually follow) and to open myself more to moments of light, love, and beauty. This means opening myself up to the less-than-comfy moments too, of self-hatred, anger, and fear. Extending this practice to my fitness routine enables me to be a better listener to my body, which makes room for better listening to my mind. It helps take my Self out of the practice and remember that every small act creates a ripple through this entire Universe, and that every moment influences future moments.

Gentoku's article suggests that we come up with our own exercise dedication. He outlines several questions that assist with discovering the true meaning behind what we do and how we do it. I'd like to share my exercise dedication, and wish love and light to all beings.

My body has been beautiful in all its forms and sizes. 
Physical exercise helps my body and mind meet life’s moments as they arise. 
Practicing with my physical body will allow me to make more room to practice compassion in daily life. 
I exercise for every wild being who has ever felt the pull to move, especially for those who are afraid to follow that pull. 
I will embody a graceful dancer, a fierce hunter, and a loving matriarch.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Random Going-Ons

I haven't been able to pull my thoughts together tightly enough around one subject to come up with a blog post in my head this week. I'm working on spending some time being instead of doing. It's not going well. I'm doing a lot, and haven't sat down to meditate but once in the past two weeks. That's okay though, because this is a practice. I seem to be shelving some of the self-care tools that I'd really like to pull out more often, and that's usually a sign of imbalance for me. So hopefully I'll make some time in the next few days for some meditation, both sitting and vinyasa.

Anyways, here are some of the things that have been keeping my brain so bustling.

We got a new mattress! The one we were using before was a hand-me-down from an aunt who bought it in 1980, and I'd been lugging it around since 2005 when I moved into my apartment in Farmville. It was in rough shape, and while I'm a pretty good sleeper and can handle just about any surface, it's really nice to sleep without springs jutting into my upper back and to be able to roll around a bit without the CRREAAAAKKKs waking the Jeffster from his precious slumber. He's so cute when he's sleeping. I did a lot of research, and ended up going with the recommendation of my sister and buying from The Original Mattress Factory because they manufacture the mattresses on their own and have great warranties. We were able to get an orthopedic model. It's only been two nights, but so far it's amazing. The bed set is significantly higher than the old mattress and box springs, so I only have to bend forward half as much to wrap my wet hair up in my t-shirt. That's a pretty awesome benefit.

The same sister who gave me such a great mattress recommendation is texting me silliness right now. She had some surgery done on her foot this morning that's going to leave her off her feet for a few weeks. She texted me that she was awake and told me she's feeling loopy, so I suggested she try to recite, "Irish wristwatch," out loud and see how funny it sounds. I'm going to head over to her house after work tomorrow, and hope to keep her laughing and smiling all weekend. I'm hoping to cook her family up some bit batch meals and get them into her freezer, too.

In health efforts, I'm going strong on week one of the Push Phase in ChaLean Extreme. That's about 35 days into the rotation. I'd like to take some more of my fitness time for yoga in the upcoming week, and I'm planning on grabbing some 25lb dumbbells from WalMart to increase the weight for my squats and deadlifts. It feels awesome to be getting stronger, and my nutritional mood has been pretty positive, with my body craving veggies and other nutrients instead of just the usual sugar and bread (and McDonald's). I'm allowing myself to eat pretty liberally during this Push Phase, since heavy lifting increases my appetite so much. Just trying to focus on eating enough of the good stuff to avoid picking up the bad stuff.

The only restrictions in my diet right now, because I'm actually quite firmly against restrictive dieting, unless you want to give that item up for life - are beverages. I'm on day four of a 31-day challenge with one of my best friends, and my challenge is to only drink water, hot tea, and coffee. And not too much coffee. My reasons are a) I'd done a great job at cutting back my Dr. Peppers to one or two a weekend, for about two years. I've been drinking more and more of them since fall and constantly want one! I'll even drink a Diet just for the fizzy feel, and I think diet sodas are kind of the worst thing in the world. I'm hoping that withdrawal for a month will get me back to where drinking them was a little too sugary, and I'd just sip and be grateful for those sips. Also b) to give my liver a break from alcohol. The alcohol intake hasn't been higher than average lately. I just want to give my liver a break and get her ready for spring. Rest up sweetie, you'll have lots of Shock Top to process soon enough.

I hope anyone that reads is having a great week, and finding some time to BE instead of DO.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Clear away the weeds

I don't have internet at home. I've got my smartphone and usually a pretty good signal with 3G, but still rarely check email, take my conquerclub turns, or do much else beyond scan Facebook and a quick google for, "Why the hell is it taking so long for my sweet potato to bake?" So the first day back to work after a weekend, especially a long weekend like Presidents Day, finds the inbox a little jammed with junk. I can quickly delete about 90% of what comes in, but one thing I always let stack up are my Tricycle Daily Dharma emails. I almost always have time for these little tidbits of wisdom. This morning, I'd racked four Tricycle emails, and I've been casually checking them in between various other internettery. Here's a little bit of one that gave me some pause:

"When you plant seeds in the garden,
you don't dig them up every day to see if they have
sprouted yet. You simply water them and clear away the weeds;
you know that the seeds will grow in time."
~ Thubten Chodron, "Meditator's Toolbox"

 I get frustrated. I easily lose patience, and it sometimes seems like feelings of defeat and guilt are more welcome in this mind than anything resembling positive thinking. So many of us know how we get stuck in cycles of two steps forward, three backwards. Even when the cycles look more like four steps forward, one step backwards, it's easy to let that one backwards step define our sense of identity for a time. There have been times when I'd sit and write all my accomplishments, trying to squeeze some self-love to the surface of my muddledom, and still couldn't let go of the voices that replayed my failures, my shortcomings, the dark spaces in my heart. The weeds that like to encroach on my true, compassionate nature.

I'm sure there will be periods of darkness like this throughout my life. My seeds are not leading me to any finish line. There's never going to be a point where I can step back and say, "Aha! Finally! I can stop focusing so much on self-care and developing compassion. I can stop meditating. I can stop exercising and just go to McDonalds every day again. Finally, I have reached my goals, and now things can go back to the way they were before I opened my eyes." My goals will change. They are changing, and perhaps I'm not doing a great job right now at checking in regularly to see where my deepest longing truly resides.

Regardless, I will continue to plant my seeds, water them, and work on clearing away these weeds.

"Similarly, just do your daily practice and
cultivate a kind heart." 

As I cultivate a kinder heart, I will be able to meet my guilt, anger, and frustration with a kinder attitude.

Monday, February 11, 2013

I sewed something yall

 I was crafty this weekend! My aunt gave me a Brother 2010 sewing machine in the cabinet around Christmastime. I didn't want to get too involved with learning about it or start any projects until after the craziness of the holidays, then the wedding, and then my parents being in town. But I picked up some more supplies last week with a little surplus in my "fun-money," and got to work on some cloth napkins!

Jeff and I have mentioned that we'd like to find ways to cut back on our paper waste around the house, and I found a great tutorial on cloth napkins that outlined them as a great project to practice sewing straight lines and the art of mitered corners. I didn't plan a blog post on the project, so I only have a few pictures that I took with my smartphone to send to a few of my craftier friends.

I didn't want to spend money on fabric because I'm cheap, this is my first project and therefore might be a little messy, and these are only going to be used by us at home. I figured that if the project was fun enough, I'd work on more sets later on, some nicer ones for home and perhaps a few gift sets in my friends' favorite colors. So rather than purchase fabric, I broke down an old set of full sheets and pillowcases for my napkin material. The fabric is already washed, shrunk, super soft and should stand up well to multiple washings.

I started by using my awesome rotary cutter set to cut 17" squares. I was able to get two from each of my two pillowcases, so four floral squares, and easily got 16 solid green squares from the top sheet after I'd ironed it and cut the hemmed edges. Cutting the edges was pointless because I would have trimmed them with the cuts I used to square the pieces. I can't imagine how long it would have taken to mark and cut perfect squares with only my shears. I now understand why the rotary cutter, mat, and ruler are essential to quilters.

After my squares were cut, I laid the ruler diagonally across the squares and marked my fabric 1-1/2" in on each corner. I looked at a ton of different ways to do mitered corners, but this advice on the Fiskars website seemed more simple, and I was excited to use my rotary cutter for more snips!

The picture above is the wrong side of one of my floral squares from the pillowcases. Below is one of the squares from the green sheet. These squares had no right side or wrong side, which made things even easier. Yay! After marking the 1-1/2" corner marks, I turned the ruler diagonally and lined it up with the inch marks on the mat to cut 1/2" corners off the squares. This removes excess fabric that can make your corners look jacked. I was following the tutorial's advice to square the fabric, mark it 1" in on each side of the corner, and then use those marks to snip your corner. But I'm using a regular inkpen because our local Wal-Mart doesn't have any sewing pens, and it eventually left a mark on the mat that I could see.

Above is the square laid out with the ruler indicating the corner I'm about to cut free. I was sad when I finished cutting and realized it was time to iron and sew. Cutting is so fun with the rotary tool and mat. Jeff was amazed by the self-healing mat.

It took me three hours to get my machine to stitch! I'd messed around with it a few times in January, then had my aunt show me again how to thread the top and load the bobbin when she visited a few weekends ago. But I still kept getting it wrong. Twice I got up, quit, and walked away. But then I'd settle into my huff on the couch and look at youtube, and eventually was able to piece together the right advice from several videos about other models. There aren't many videos online for my model, and Brother doesn't offer the manual online like it does for so many others.

Once I figured the machine out, I felt confident to start pressing my hems since I'd be able to stitch them right afterwards. I folded each corner into that little mark from earlier, which ended up being about 1/4" hem. My iron is awesome for pressing. I love it. I had to refill the water after each napkin, but I guess it's normal for an iron to steam through that much water quickly. After pressing in each corner, I pressed the edges in 1/4", starting on one side and working counter-clockwise around my square. I did both folds on each side at once, and now that I'm thinking about it, I remember reading that it's better to first fold the first hem all the way around, and then go around again with the second fold. I'll do that with my next batch. Spoiler alert: I only finished two napkins yesterday. Eighteen to go haha.

I liked the way the corners came together once I had all my hems pressed. None of them were perfect, but I'll get better as I get more practice. It was my first time stitching anything other than practice seams on the machine, too, so while the stitching isn't very pretty (and I still can't figure out how to get my stitch to zig-zag... it's set on zig-zag but still stitching straight), I know that will improve greatly with time too.

Here it is: my first mitered corner!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Accept the Unaccepted

This morning has felt a little difficult. I've been out of my routine since Thanksgiving, and I haven't been great at making the best decisions for my mind and body. I've been eating like shit pretty consistently, and it's becoming easier to just reach for a soda. I kicked ass at two weeks of Chalean Extreme, but I've skipped workouts for four days now. This is unlike me. I'm not happy when I'm not moving or getting the nutrients my body has gotten used to.

My parents have been here for a couple of weeks. Mom came out less than a week after we returned from our honeymoon. Ronnie was here a few days later. They've been busting ass on the vacant rental property - they've dealt with discovering two huge truckloads of garbage dumped in the woods on the property and having the heat pump stolen by spiceheads (assumption) one night. They found a new tenant who seems very legit. I didn't have to fuss with any of these issues, and that was such a blessing. But I have to admit that I've been a little antsy to get them out of the house. We just got married! We're just not ourselves when we have to share the house.

They're leaving today and starting their long drive back to South Dakota. I thought I'd wake up excited and gleeful about the idea of heading home to an empty house, other than my wonderful husband and our gorgeous but needy cats. But dammit! I'm going to miss them. I'll miss Ronnie rolling his eyes at me stealing his sodas, and I'll miss Mom being unable to focus on anything other than her to-do list. I miss my folks!

This morning I found myself to escaping to every moment but the present. An argument that I had once with Mom during high school. The excitement of the road trip we'll be taking out to SD later this year. The awkward conversations I'll be having later today with a visiting boss from corporate. I didn't want to sit with all that conflict. Am I happy they're leaving? Am I sad? Does it have to be so dualistic in order to understand the feelings? Do I even need to understand the feelings to accept them? Stuff to sit with today.