Archive for October, 2014
It’s official: we’re engaged! At this year’s annual King Richard’s Faire visit, my partner of five years managed to surprise me, jaw drop included. And it’s not like he and I haven’t discussed getting married; we have, but I was surprised nonetheless. The thing is, I was married and divorced long ago, so I was also never in a hurry to repeat it. But what I have now is so different from my past. And the question was delivered from such a loving and authentic place, saying yes was easy.
The romance of the situation was not lost on me at all. A mutual friend introduced us at King Richard’s Faire, so it’s our annual “anniversary thang.” 🙂 We go, usually with a gang of friends, and leave reality at the gate. It’s a great day of silly fun … I LOVE that he chose to propose there. I’m girly-vain enough to enjoy that I was wearing a costume that I love and in which I feel beautiful. Not to mention, KRF for me is simply infused with wonderful memories—the romance of the gesture just lit me up. I’m also thrilled that Mike made sure that my best friend was there to share in the joy … AND to take lots of great photos. Take a look at my face, people, after the surprise, that’s JOY!
Although getting to a place of authentic joy in a personal relationship has been a journey for me, for sure, I don’t claim to be unique or alone in having needed to get past smashed dreams, heartache, feelings of betrayal, and the subsequent feeling of never wanting to open up again and trust enough to fall in love. But, the beautiful thing about being human is that once we start healing personally, the rest does sort of fall into place. Mike and I didn’t fall in love with each other until we’d both made some peace with ourselves.
Of course, an obvious key factor in what’s different is I’m older; we’re both older. At this point in our lives, we know who we are and have a better understanding of what we need to be happy and fulfilled, both individually and as a couple. (My 22-year-old bride self was more than a little clueless.) Unlike my first go round, Mike and I have taken the time to truly get to know each other and our relationship is solidly based on a foundation of love, trust, and respect … oh, and lots and LOTS of laughs! (The fact the man makes me belly laugh every single day is an amazing gift.)
Another surprising gift evolving out of this new state of being is the knowledge that I want to feel that same authentic joy I felt when he proposed in many more facets of my life—it feels damn good! Feeling that authentic joy is crystallizing my motivation to choose happiness, to make decisions that are for my best good and that bring joy. I know that I want joy on a daily basis. I don’t want to wait until I accomplish just one more thing or wait for a particular something else to happen. I am deciding that joy is a priority. I also know I’m the ONLY one who can make it happen and it’ll take some practice. Joy can be found in things large and small, I just have to consciously make the decision, and that will also require taking moments to feel gratitude for the tiny to grand blessings in my life. I know that when I cultivate gratitude, it allows me in any given situation to choose what will hold my focus—frustration or acceptance; restlessness or contentment; alienation or love. Our perceptions do create our realities.
So, I’m going to continue to revisit what authentic joy feels like and invite it in as often, and in as many ways, as possible. How do you cultivate joy in your daily life?
The quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is often attributed to Einstein, Franklin, or Twain, but none of them seem to be the originator of the pithy phrase. Regardless of who said it, it’s running through my head quite a bit because I once again spent a pain-filled week on the floor. Yup, my back went out AGAIN. This time in the middle of the mundane act of putting on a pair of cute lace-up boots … an act that is apparently much more dangerous than I ever thought it could be.
I’ll admit it; I didn’t handle it well. First, because it really, really hurt … A LOT. And then secondly, because I dove headlong into the pit of despair and took frustration, disbelief, and self-pity along with me. All I could think through the tears was, “Why me? Why again?! What did I do wrong?” which, of course, is never helpful AND it’s looking at the situation from a really destructive viewpoint—as if making any mistakes in life makes you deserving of pain and suffering. That’s just complete and utter bullshit, to put it bluntly. Thank the Gods that I have such a loving, caring, and supportive partner in Mike and have a few amazing friends who can help ground me when I’m spinning my way into a spectacular pity party.
It became clear (with their help) that I need to focus on the positive and to recognize that for whatever reason, this seems to be part of my process in transforming my life and transitioning into a period of greater expansion and growth. Would I like this process to be less physically painful? Oh YEAH. (I’ve entered into negotiations with The Universe for just that.) And this is where the quote comes in.
What do I have to do that’s different than what I’ve been doing? What isn’t working? Or what is it that’s getting in my way? Part of the problem, I think, is my tendency to only focus on my lack, or what’s wrong in my life. I’ve got a LONG habit of doing that … I am my worst critic. Much better if I look and acknowledge all the many things that I’m doing that are RIGHT for me RIGHT NOW. For instance, I’ve got my business and marketing plans and I’m doing the tasks necessary. When I’m not lying on the floor alternating between icing and heating my back, I’m steadily adding in the physical activities to help regain strength, flexibility, and endurance. I’m eating the way that seems to nurture my body best. I’m learning to ask for help—and be open to receiving it. I am dancing with patience in a way I never have—but then I really have no choice. It’s find patience or spend every minute of dealing with my back cursing and beating my head against the proverbial wall. And that doesn’t seem like a smart plan. Why add more pain?
I also have to realize that I don’t have all the answers right now and I don’t have to. All I really have to do is listen to my inner voice and pay attention—it’s never lied to me. I need to believe that I can manifest what it is I’m working toward. Decisions need to be made based on how both my mind AND my heart feel around any choice. I’m the one who decides how my life and world unfold. My mind set is key to how I perceive my life. I can view it from a place of darkness and suffering or I can view every moment as an opportunity to give and receive compassion, kindness, and love, as well as an opportunity for learning and growth.
As I write this blog post (on the floor with the laptop propped on a pillow on my belly), I don’t know yet exactly what I need to do differently. I clearly need some meditation/contemplation time to try and figure that out. There’s always a solution, but one must understand the problem first … I’ll figure out what’s blocking my progress in time. I’ve worked with chiropractic, massage, and physical therapy, but another type of bodywork and/or energy work will likely prove helpful, along with some serious self-contemplation time. In the meantime, it seems like I must actively work on cultivating patience, self-compassion, and self-care … all things with which I struggle. So, I guess you could say that if I manage those things, I’m doing something pretty different. But, I’m willing to give it a go as I’m not fond of the idea of fitting the aforementioned definition of insanity. *Deep breath* Let’s see how it goes.
I just received the November issue of Shambhala Sun magazine in the mail. On the cover is, “Get off the Wheel of Habit.” This issue has arrived not a moment too late. I’m at a true place of transition and growth and feeling my way into making more conscious decisions about what I want and need in my daily life, my social life, my professional life, my home, and my health. I assess and see I’ve made some incredible strides forward and can feel a sense of pleasure in the accomplishments. I also see where I am struggling. This magazine’s focus offers a lot of insight and techniques for shifting habits … and helps me recognize some spots I’ve been refusing to really address. Habits can be comfortable after all, so changing or creating them takes a bit of planning.
From Vegetarian to Paleo
Given the health issues with which I’ve struggled in the last few years, I’ve had to make some major changes to heal my digestive system, hormonal system, and the resulting low energy levels. I’m not done yet, but I’ve come a long way, baby! My current Primal/Paleo diet is completely different from the conventional ADA approved food pyramid diet of five years ago, and it’s extraordinarily different from the decade of vegetarianism I adopted when I moved back from Germany and discovered American meat made me vomit. (Seriously, that WILL put off even the most avid carnivores!) It wasn’t until my body started shutting down and demanding the nutrients only meat provided that I caved in (I literally dreamed of meat … and yes, I know, eating meat is very unusual in the yoga world!) It also helped that by that time, the option to buy local, organic, and grass-fed/free-range meat was available. But eating whole, unprocessed foods TAKES A LOT OF WORK … well, certainly more work than someone who got very used to the convenience of the microwave, Whole Foods prepared food counter, and the delicious indulgence of Chinese take-out. But, there aren’t any shortcuts for me now—there certainly can’t be any take-out!—and if I hadn’t developed a few habits to help me with it, I’m not so sure I would have made it.
Helpful Food Habit: I plan the menu and shop for the entire week and cook/prep several meals on the weekend in order to save time during the week. AND … I created a closed group on Facebook made up of friends who are also striving to find the right balance in healthy paleo/primal type diets. Having support and a way to exchange ideas and recipes makes eating this way a whole lot easier.
The Grizzly Bear is Alive and Well
The change in my diet has affected a lot of healing, but my stressed-out adrenal glands still haven’t figured out that I’m not actually being chased by a grizzly bear. They’re still pretty sure I’m in mortal danger on a regular basis. 13+ years of corporate stress took its toll and finding the patience to heal this issue has NOT been easy and it’s the last big health hurdle I need to get over. It’s impact is felt in almost all facets of my life because sleep continues to be an issue for me, and quite frankly, without adequate sleep, the rest will never be as effective as it could be.
There are foods (primarily sugar) and beverages (primarily caffeine and alcohol) which I need to eliminate in order to give my adrenals as much rest as possible. I’ve cut back on both these things, but I’m Irish and oh me oh my, how I LOVE a good strong cup or two of tea in the morning! However, even I must admit that having a racing heart and shaky hands is probably not something I want to continue to experience. So, I’m going to have to establish a new morning ritual (aka “habit”) to make my mornings feel good. And I need to consciously avoid sugar and alcohol when I’m out with friends or when I’m inclined to indulge because, ‘it’s the weekend!’ That’s a habit that I share with many of my fellow Americans and it’s been strongly established for a long time. If I want to fully heal my adrenals it’s long past time for that habit to shift into something else. I also need to add in certain foods/supplements (sodium is a big one. My levels are low … what happens when you eliminate processed foods!) I know all of this will take time, practice, and a whole lot of compassionate patience. My adrenals have been over-stressed for years. One year away from the stress-filled corporate job isn’t enough time to get them feeling like they belong to a zen monk.
Helpful morning habit: Find or make an herbal tea or chai that I find DELICIOUS to make my morning tea ritual feel good.
Helpful weekend habit: Envision a truly relaxing evening/weekend and determine what that looks like. Decide what activities will support my need to feel indulgent and relaxed while still serving my main goal of healing my adrenals.
The Need to Slow Down
One of the habits I’m trying to bring back is regular exercise, but I’m learning I need to redefine what that means for me. I spent many of my early years running and doing things like push-ups and crunches to maintain physical health, but I’m finding that my body just can’t manage running right now. When I discovered yoga, I *loved* it, but it always supported my other activities. Now, I’m finding that yoga needs to be my primary activity because among many of its great benefits, it doesn’t stress my adrenal glands while I do it (the grizzly is NOT welcome on my yoga mat!) My body, my mind, and my heart want a lot more regular yoga and some low-key hikes (4000 footers are on hold for now). But my need for positive habit creation is running smack into my wall of impatience; going slower feels so … odd. It’s exactly what I need, however, so now I plan my week’s exercise, too. I need to put my activity in my calendar. And just labeling a chunk of time, “exercise”, doesn’t work. I need to put down what I’m doing: yoga class, or hike in Lincoln Woods, yoga at home, or walk w/Lisa. (YES, wrangling a friend into planned physical activity is a grand way to get it to happen!)
Helpful Exercise Habit: Plan each activity for the week and put it in the calendar. Make plans with a friend and have a back-up plan if weather doesn’t cooperate.
What it all comes down to is we’ve got habits, good, bad, or otherwise. We enjoy and reap the benefits of some and struggle with others. Negative habits can continue to erode our visions for ourselves and impact our health, while positive habits can help us live healthier, more fulfilled lives or simply help our day feel less chaotic. I think shifting, eliminating, and creating habits becomes most successful when we apply a mindful quality to the endeavor. Breath by breath, step by step is really the only way to do it. And, of course, cultivating an attitude of compassionate gentleness during the entire process. Creating more stress by beating yourself up doesn’t help. I’ll make mistakes, you’ll make mistakes and it’s ok. In truth, your intention and effort is what counts. Keep starting over, keep putting forth effort and you will effect change.
“On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed; even a little of this practice will shelter you from great sorrow.” ~Bhagavad Gita (2.40)
I’d love to hear how you support yourself when trying to change or establish a habit.