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Good Busy

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Good Busy

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

I may be bucking a recent trend here, but I have no problem with busy. Personally, I like having lots of things to do, and it is a proven fact that busy people get stuff done. I like people who do stuff. People who do stuff are interesting.

I have no problem staying busy. Between the husband/house/kids/job and everything else I have going on, I can keep myself busy 24/7. I am aware; however, that I can easily drop into a mindless vortex of busy for the sake of being busy. That’s a bad busy. Bad busy is not the kind of busy I want.

To combat bad busy, I made a long, long laundry list of goals I wanted to accomplish this year. I wanted to focus my busy on the things that mattered. This culminated in a daily checklist of some thirty-odd plus things I needed to do each and every day to reach these varied goals. It was daunting to say the least. So, as the hours turned into days and the days became weeks, I realized that  while having it all may be a possibility, I’m probably not going to be able to make it all happen at the same time.

So, stuff got dumped.

Don’t worry. I didn’t just randomly begin to cross things off the list. I just started asking myself what’s really important to me right now. I started considering what things I can do today that will have the biggest impact on my tomorrow. For now, I eliminated every goal except for the following three:

1. Being loving…not just towards others but towards myself as well,
2. Being fit…cause I have stuff to do and this old body has to drag me through another 50 years or so,
and
3. Being fully engaged in meaningful work.
 

Choosing the good busy is not always easy. Honestly, it’s been tough from time to time. Just because I know it’s good for me, just because I know it supports my goals, doesn’t mean that doing it is effortless. I still have to push and prode myself to do the right thing. Can anybody say resistance?

Sometimes, I falter and I choose bad busy. I putz around completing meaningless tasks, I eat the candy, I snap at the kid, or I watch some mindless comedy that makes me smile. I’m human and prone to error. It’s what I do next that matters most and what I do is:

1. Allow myself to feel bad, for one hot second,
2. Look hard and long at what contributed to my moment of weakness,
3. Make a real plan for doing better,
and
4. Then I forgive myself and mean it and let it go and move on.
 

As Scarlett O’Hara said, “tomorrow is another day.” As Oprah says, “when you know better you do better.”

We all know that in the end it’s just about showing up everyday and doing what needs to be done. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or hot or if we’re tired or not. When we commit, especially to our dreams, we need to be committed.

I’m asking myself over and over and over again does this thought, this behavior, and this activity support my goals. What I’m finding is I’m becoming more focused on being good busy. Letting go of bad busy is becoming easier.

As the hours turned into days and the days became weeks, I’m starting to see little tiny slivers of progress.  As I consistently show up and make right choices, I find making right choices becomes easier.

So, don’t believe them when they say all busy is bad. Busy for the sake of  being busy, busy that distracts from a happy life and achieving meaningful goals, is bad busy. It should be avoided. Being busy with things we love, people who matter, and stuff that counts, being busy reaching for goals we’ve set is good busy. It should be embraced.

It’s still true that busy people get stuff done. The world needs people intent on being good busy. The world needs people who are busy being happy and busy reaching for their dreams. So, let’s go get busy filling our days with the good busy.

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Questions

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Questions

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

I have always been full of questions. As a child, I quickly learned not to annoy the adults in my life with the endless stream of inquiries that rolled through my head. To be honest, it was tough to surpress. Luckily, I learned early on that many of the answers I sought could be found in books. I became an avid reader at an early age.

Things haven’t changed much. I’m still full of questions and still read incessantly. It’s just that now most of the information I seek is found on the wondrous inter-web.

When I was in college, I worked as a server in a popular restaurant. Everyday, over and over again, customers would ask the same two questions. One was what type of salad dressings did we offer. The other was what type of soft drinks did we serve. The other servers and I would complain about how annoying this was. Come on people. Unless this is your first time in a restaurant you should know this.…coke, diet coke, sprite, thousand island or blue cheese.

One day as I was suppressing an eye roll and large sigh after being asked one of these two questions for the fiftieth time that day, it dawned on me that the person asking was doing so because he really wanted to know. Here he was in our restaurant turning over his hard earned dollars to have a lovely culinary experience. He just wanted to be sure there were no unexpected options. What if we served Pepsi products? (We didn’t.) What if we had special house dressing? (We did.) He just wanted information to make the best choice. He was asking because he didn’t know.

Something shifted in me that day. I thought about all the people who rolled their eyes and sighed at my questions with annoyance. I thought about all the questions I didn’t ask for fear of angering or irritating or being dismissed. I made a decision then and there that anytime someone asked me a question, I would honor it and do my best to share what I knew. I decided that even if I’d been asked the question a million and one times before, I would act as if it was the first time I had ever heard that question and I would treat the person asking it respectfully.

I’m a strong proponent of the idea that there are no stupid questions. If someone takes the trouble to think about something to the point of formulating an inquiry, then the least I can do is honor it with a thoughtful answer. It might be nice to live in a world where everyone already knew all of the important stuff, but that’s not how it is.

We are put here to solve problems and seek a better way. We are put here to learn and grow and evolve. The only way we can do better is to learn better. All learning be it math or matters of spirituality starts with a question. It always starts with a question. Always. To ignore any question is nothing short of cruelty. If one has an answer, they also have the responsibility to share it.

As a teacher to middle school students, at the beginning of every class, I would write a question on the board that related to the day’s lesson. My student’s would spend a few minutes pondering it on paper before we discussed it as a class. One day one of my eighth grade students raised his hand and asked me how long his answer had to be. I responded that it should be at least a paragraph, maybe two. He then asked, “Mrs. Stewart, what’s a paragraph?”

When I stated teaching, I made the decision to honor all student questions the same way I honored questions in my everyday life. So, true to form I stopped what I was doing and explained to him what a paragraph was. He nodded and began to write.

After class, he came up to me and thanked me for telling him what a paragraph was. As I busily shuffled papers, he continued. “I’ve asked this question every year since I was in second grade and you’re the first teacher who has answered it for me.”

He had my full attention now. I turned and looked at him. In shock, I stammered, “you’re kidding?” I asked him how teachers responded to him when he asked the question. He said they blew him off because they assumed he already knew the answer and thought he was just trying to disrupt class or avoid work.

I found that by thoughtfully and considerately answering every single student question including the ones that were used for the avoidance of work and for comedic value (my favorites) that the students realized two things. First they realized I would take every thing they said seriously. Second, they realized that I respected them.

No tween-ager wants to look stupid. For the most part, after having me spend several minutes earnestly answering several of their non-serious inquiries pretty much ended the game. They knew they could trust me and from then on our class discussions remained on-topic.

While I believe there are no stupid questions, I do believe that some questions are better than others. I think it’s important that we really contemplate where we want to end up once the question is answered and formulate and reformulate our questions until we get to the place we need to be.

For many years, I asked the question, “why am I unhappy?” You better believe I found thousands of answers to this question. The thing is after a lot of knowledge accured, I was still unhappy. Then I changed the question and asked what I believe to be a better question, “how can I be happy?” I found thousands of answers to this question, too. But the difference was after all the questioning, I was happy.

I think we often get trapped asking the wrong questions. Why does my marriage suck should be replaced with how can I make my marriage work? Why am I fat should be replaced with how do I get healthy? Why won’t this dog stop barking should be replaced with what is causing the dog to bark and how can I remove the cue?

Good or bad, right or wrong, the question is the beginning and necessary. Therefore, I will continue to ask questions even if others find me annoying and I will answer any question that comes my way or at least help point the person to possible answers.

We are put here imperfect. We’ve given our great big brains for a reason. Now, let us accept this and start asking all the questions we need to ask to make ourselves and our world a better. In addition, when we are questioned, let us consider it an honor instead of an annoyance. Let us realize that someone is trusting us to help them on their journey. Let us honor their journey with thoughtful answers.

If you enjoyed this essay, please feel free to share it with others. I don’t mind.

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Our Dreams Matter

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Our Dreams Matter

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

Last fall my son asked me if I had any dreams. “Of course,” I answered quickly. As he talked, I poked around the dark crevices of my mind searching for a dream I could share. Sadly, I couldn’t think of one.

He was charged and the conversation went forward sans my contribution. As he excitedly told me of his dreams, I realized there had been a time when I too had dreams. Just like my son, I once believed that whatever I could dream could truly happen. I never doubted that if I put my mind to it, worked really, really hard, and played smart that anything was within my reach. I remember feeling excited and energized by all the possibilites.

As my son continued, it dawned on me that somewhere along the way I stopped dreaming. I realized that I haven’t felt inspired about what’s next in a long time. While I was glad to see his enthusiasm, I felt sad for me.

Over the next few months, I tried to remember the exact day, the precise minute I last felt excited about my life. Throughout high school and college and into marriage and motherhood I was a dream machine plotting all the wonderful that would fill my days. Sure, there were disappointments. Plans had to be changed to accommodate all the moving parts of my life but I was mostly optimistic.

Being the daughter of a career Marine, landed me in eight different schools, ten different homes, five different states, and one foreign country in my first thirteen years. I never had a negative experience. To me it as a grand adventure. But because of all the moves, I always regarded my grandmother Claypool’s regal, white house, lovingly filled with family heirlooms as home. It was the one constant throughout my childhood.

Even before I started my family, I dreamed of making this kind of home for my children. I wanted my kids to feel the way about the home they lived in with me as I felt about my grandmother’s house. So, when we bought our house in Temecula, California, I set about creating a family home that would be filled with love and cherished memories.

For two years I poured all my spare time and money into decorating that house. I painted and planted and sewed it into what I pictured as perfection. I dreamed of watching my daughter walk down the stairs in play dresses, then prom dresses, and then her wedding gown. As I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with my kids on the patio, I dreamed of doing the same with my grandchildren.

So, when the tech bubble burst and my husband announced that he had been laid off from his software job, my bubble burst too. I realized that if he didn’t find a job quickly and near where we lived, we could be forced to move from this house in which I had put my heart and soul.

As we stretched his severance and he searched for a new job, I did the only thing I could to protect my heart. I detached from the house. The idea of loosing it hurt too much. It was the only way I could cope.

We didn’t loose the house that time. Joe was employed inside of a month and bought us two more years before fate stepped in again and we were uprooted for good. It didn’t matter. I lived in the house, but I never felt the same about it. It was just a roof over our heads, a mortgage that had to be paid, and nothing more.

The threat of loosing that dream was so painful I just stopped dreaming. I didn’t want to hurt like that again.

For the thirteen years since, I’ve really not made plans, set goals, or checked things off my list. I’ve latched onto other people’s dreams and supported their efforts, but I haven’t dared dream for myself. I’m terrified that the second I do I will loose whatever it is.

A life without dreams is no life.

As I continue to listen to my son talking of his plans for his future enthusiastically sharing all the projects he wants to tackle and things he wants to experience, I knew that I had to find a way to dream again. I had to unearth those long hidden desires. I had to figure out what really excited me. I had to name it and claim it. I had to move forward towards what I wanted.

It’s really difficult for me to write about this. I’m still struggling to figure it out.

I don’t want to glom onto someone else’s bucket list. I want dreams that are authentically mine. I also want to be sure that I’m helping others. I want to leave this Earthly Heaven a little better than I found it.

In order to do this, I’ve found I have to hold myself in this strange place where I have laser focus on the goals for which I’m working but am open and accepting of whatever happens. I have to feel worthy and deserving while being honest about what it is I really want and need. I have to surround myself with people who are supportive, loving, and generous while reaching out to those who are hurt and broken. I have to work hard knowing that what’s best will come easy.

It’s an odd bit of alchemy.

I’m moving forward slowly taking tentative steps as I carefully mull over each idea. I try to wait patiently until I feel it in my bones. That’s why I’ve placed such importance on goal setting and vision boards and all the other exercises I do to unearth what will really make a difference in my life and the lives of others.

Our dreams matter. I’m taking this seriously.

 

 

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Doubling Down

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Doubling Down

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

On Saturday, I registered for the Rock n’ Roll Savannah Half Marathon. What this means is that I put down cold, hard, non-refundable cash for the privilege of running 13.1 miles through the streets of Savannah, Georgia. For many people, signing up for a road race is no big deal. For me, it’s a total and complete ordeal.

I’ve wanted to run a Rock n’ Roll for ages. Savannah is hands down one my favorite towns. Running through the streets of Savannah would be heavenly. This should be a no-brainer. Instead, I stalled for days coming up with a million and one reasons why I shouldn’t go.

This is not how races get run, so on Saturday, I registered. Like I said, the race fee is non-refundable. Next, in what I can only describe as an act of total defiance, I booked a hotel room: for two nights. I made sure it was non-refundable too. I doubled down. I was immediately flooded with feelings of remorse and regret.

Anything could happen between now and then. My mind raced with the possibilities of things that could prevent me from showing up on race day. What if I’m sick? What if the weather turns bad? What if there’s an accident or emergency? What if my training goes poorly? What if I’m injured? The list went on and on and on.

The truth of the matter is I will go or not go, and I’ll either have a great run or the whole thing will suck. One never knows how it’s going to be with running. I can plan and train and do everything perfect and still go out and have a crap of a race. One lousy meal, weather that’s too hot or cold, or a bad night’s sleep can turn what should have been a great time into a 13.1 mile death march.

While my head knows this, the thought of having to live through the next several months with this event looming larger by the minute made my heart feel tight and the pit in my stomach grow larger. I decided to sit with the fear and uncertainty. I decided to lean into the discomfort.

What I realized is that it’s not just running races that sends me into a near panic attack. I realized that committing to any significant event that requires planning, dedication, and an outlay of cash, causes me to do a stress spiral. For years, I’ve stressed over vacations, social events, weekend outings, you name it.

That being said, I’m not a total wreck. I own a house, pay taxes, and take care of my family. I’m a good employee and team player. I’m a solid problem solver be they my problems or those of family or friends. I work hard to help other people (as long as they aren’t lying and stealing) reach their goals.

It’s just when it comes to me committing to something that I find exciting, enjoyable, or interesting that it all falls apart. If it’s something that I deeply care about, that I really want, then I begin to fuss and fret myself into a frenzy.

Is it fear of failure or fear of success? It doesn’t really matter. What I finally realized is that what this race is really about is the million and one things that I do between now and then. It’s about the weights lifted and miles run. It’s about rest and recovery. It’s about the food I eat and vitamins I take. It’s about holding space on that weekend for myself. It’s about saying no to what doesn’t propel me towards this goal and yes to what does. It’s about accepting that regardless of the outcome the experience was worth the effort.

The truth is that when I show up on race day, all the work has already been done. It doesn’t matter if I’m sick or well, if it’s hot or cold, if I run a personal record or not. The race started on Saturday. It started the moment I hit the button and transferred the funds. It’s about the journey and getting there.

All I can do is prepare and do everything in my power to make sure I’m on the starting line at the appointed time. All I can do is lean in, work for the best, and know that regardless of the outcome I was exactly where I was suppose to be doing exactly what I needed to do every step of the way.

 

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Twenty-Four for Forty-Eight

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Twenty-Four for Forty-Eight

In honor of my forty-eighth birthday, here’s a list of twenty-four things you probably don’t know about me. Yes, it’s a bit self-indulgent. I hope it’s not too boring. I would LOVE it if you would leave at least one fact about yourself that most people don’t know in the comments below. Consider it your birthday gift to me.

1. See Seven States…I have lived in seven different states: Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Tennessee, California, and Georgia, and one foreign country: Japan.

2. Love At First Sight…The first artist I fell in love with was Vincent Van Gogh. I was six. His self-portrait sans ear hung over the blackboard in my first grade classroom. I would stare at it anytime I wasn’t trying to sound out words or learning to add and subtract.

3. Veni, Vidi, Vici…I majored in Art History in college and minored in psychology. I blame VanGogh.

4. Four…My favorite number is four. I also like forty-four (two fours in one number) and sixteen (four times four).

5. What?…My father’s childhood nickname for me was “snake.” He called my brother “frog.” He dubbed my nieces “moose” and “goose.” I think “moose” and I got the best nicknames.

6. It’s a Family Tradition…My nicknames for my children are “prince,” princess,” and “doodle-bug.” My husband is “honey-bunny.’ The dogs are dubbed “the bone,” “goose,” and “fleo.” The new dog is the “fox.”

7. I Wear Black on the Outside…I wear black a lot. I also prefer dresses to just about any other type of clothing and wear them as often as I can. I don’t wear prints that much, especially big ones. Big prints make my head look small. It’s really creepy.

8. Random Facts…I was born in the Chinese year of the snake and my element is water. I’m a Pisces. My spirit animal is the wolf. I feel led by the bear. I have no idea what any of this really means.

9.  My Soft Place to Land…I met my husband in August of 1988. He told me he loved me on September 11, 1988, he asked me to marry him on October 11, 1988, and we got married on November 11, 1988. We are celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary this year.

10. Blooming Bravery…My favorite flower is the daffodil. There are two reasons for this. One: they bloom right around my birthday in early March. Two: I think they are extremely brave to venture out when the weather is still so unpredictable.

11. Jackpot…I once dreamed that I won $160 million in the lottery. My husband has bought a lottery ticket just about every week since. We haven’t won. Maybe, I should buy the next ticket.

12. Oh, No. Not again!…To the eternal embarrassment of my children, I cry in art museums. They beg me not to and I promise I won’t and then I turn the corner and I’m standing in front of the work of one of my hero’s and the tears flow. It’s really a problem.

13. Biggest Fail …I’ve never been to Europe to see all the art I studied. I find this eternally grievous. When I finally go, I plan to visit all the amazing works I love. I’m sure I will cry, a lot.

14. Talk to Me…I love nothing better than a good story. I read constantly but prefer to sit and listen to yarns as they are being spun.

15. ROOOOOXAAAANE….When my kids were little and would start getting whiney in a store, I would belt out the song “Roxanne” by the Police at the top of my lungs. I wouldn’t stop singing until they started behaving. After the first couple of times, I rarely got past the first word before I had the compliance I needed to finish my shopping with three well-behaved children in tow.

16. Mama Mia!…When I was in grade school, I lived in Kingston, NY in a neighborhood that was populated by first and second generation Roman Catholic Italians. My parents were non-practicing protestants from the South. Our new neighbors didn’t care. We were completely and lovingly embraced in spite of our funny accents and different views. It was a great place to be a kid and I have wonderful memories of those years and the amazing families who loved us.

17. My Brush…I talked to both Isaac Asimov and Ralph Nader on the phone. Isaac was lovely and extremely kind. Ralph was to the point and asked me a lot of questions.

18. I’m Not Shy…I’m an introvert. What this means is that I need to spend some time alone everyday to recharge. It also means I’m not big on small talk and will choose to remain quiet unless I can add something meaningful to the conversation.

19.“Let the Wild Rumpus Start!”…My favorite books are Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, The Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupéry, and A Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis.

20. No Pain, No Gain…I delivered all three of my children without the benefit of an epidural. The idea of not being able to move the entire lower part of my body freaked me out way more than the idea of labor pain.

21. I Left My Heart…While there are things about the East Coast I adore (luke-warm water beaches, forests, Atlanta, and New York City), I really love California and miss living there.

22. Hope It NEVER happens…If my husband ever leaves me for a younger woman and I’m thrown back out into the world of being single and some gentleman comes calling with the intention of wooing me, I will ask him the following questions: 1. Are you currently married? 2. Who did you vote for in 2008? 3. What is your primary source of news? 4. Are you a cat or a dog person or neither? 5. What do you think happens to us when we die? I think every single person should have thier own set of questions. It would save a lot of time and heartache.

23. Keep Moving…I love nothing better than taking a long walk or long run. Doesn’t matter where (city street or wooded trail). As long as I’m moving forward, I’m happy.

24. Past Lives…I have no way of knowing if the whole past life thing is true or not, but if it is, I’m pretty sure I spent most of mine in England as a dude.

Now it’s your turn…please, tell me something that I probably don’t know about you in the comments below. You can use a pseudonym if you’re feeling shy.

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Vision

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Vision

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

I realized sometime last summer that I have a bit of a block (understatement of the year) when it comes to articulating my dreams for my future. Sometimes it’s a matter of clarity. Other times it’s a matter of feeling worthy of what I want. Either way, I was stumbling in circles with no nerve when it came to stating them out loud.

As you know, I write. I share my experiences on this website. On my own, I jot down thoughts and feelings and ideas that are for me alone. Writing gives shape and clarity to what I’m currently going through. When I tried to use writing to project what I wanted to happen in my future, it just didn’t work. It felt contrived at best and like flat out fantasy at worst. I felt extremely disconnected from the process.

In other attempts to map out my future, I’ve talked to close friends and trusted advisors. In all these cases, they were nothing less than loving and supportive. It didn’t matter. I just felt stifled and stupid as I shared various ideas.

As summer turned to fall, I began to think about vision boards (also known as dream or action boards). Yes, I know the concept has been around forever. Like you, I’ve heard lots of people talk about how amazing and insightful they are. My friend Holly wrote about the ones she made (sadly, she’s taken her amazing website down), so I called her up and asked her to explain just how this vision board thing worked.

Holly said she had made vision boards around various “themes” such as her career aspirations or particular experiences she wanted to have. She also had a vision board that was random unrelated items that would make her life better such as having a maid or getting a new car.

At the time, the “theme” idea was too scary for me to even attempt. However, the idea of having a maid was appealing, so I printed out a photo of a maid and pasted it on a piece of poster board. For the next few months, anytime I would think of something I wanted I would print and paste it on my board.

Even though I had been pasting down random pictures of maids and Venice and elephants for the past few months, I still felt a lot of resistance. I realized that I could continue to circle the drain on this whole articulating my future thing or I could just be brave. I decided to be brave.

As 2012 drew to an end, a couple of close friends of mine and I acknowledged the value we garnered from time spent together. We made a vow that we would nurture the friendship by hanging out at least once a month for a meal and some type of planned activity. Without thinking, I agreed to host January and suggested we all make vision boards. My friends liked the idea. It was set.

Now that I was on the stick for creating a successful event, I got serious about the whole vision board thing. I read a few articles on the internet. I gathered up magazines (thanks to everyone who donated), bought supplies, planned the menu, and thought a lot about how to make this vision board idea work. I decided that I really needed to delve in deep, so I purchased a oversized sketch book to have multiple pages to paste the images I chose.

Since one of my goals for this year is generating more income, I decided this would be the theme of my first vision page. While my friends cut out images and words that had meaning to them, I cut out numbers and dollar signs and pictures that represented how it would feel to make more money. I dutifully pasted them on a page of my vision book.

As we worked, we shared words and quotes with each other and talked about how different photos made us feel. At the end of the night, we all felt like we had barely gotten started. Calendars were checked, families consulted, and a date was set for a second vision session the following week.

Everyone came away from the experience feeling like it was time well spent. Both Pam and Jennifer decided to choose images that resonated strongly with them and to allow time to reveal what each of their boards mean. I stuck to my themes. After filling several pages with income images, I’ve moved on to other themed pages such as family, friends, fitness, fun. Since that night, my vision book sits on my desk and every now and then when I have the inclination, I attach a few more images.

I’ve heard stories of people sticking a photo of Oprah on their boards only to find themselves on her show or of pasting a particular house on the board and finding themselves living in it long after the board had been forgotten. I’m open to having that kind of thing happen to me as well. It makes me very careful about what I choose to paste.

The larger benefit for me though has been in stating what I want my future to look like. I may not be able to say it or write it but I’m finding that as a clip and stick, form and shape and clarity are coming into my life. It’s bringing up various long buried feelings which gives me the opportunity to address them as they surface. My vision book is also giving me focus and informing the decisions I make in my everyday life. I find I spend more time working towards those things I’m thoughtfully pasting down. I also feel a lot less apologetic for wanting what I want.

If you’ve made a vision board, I’d love to hear how it went for you. Please leave a comment below. If you’re interested in making a vision board, I’ve included a few links to get you started.

Martha Beck, the queen of vision boards.

Pam Slim’s take on vision boards.

A step by step guide from Christine Kane.

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Impatiently Plodding Forward

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Impatiently Plodding Forward

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius

When I run a 5k the first mile is always easy. The excitement of the start, the mass of people around me, the promise of what I hope will be a good race, propels me forward. All I have to do is control the pace that first mile, so I have enough energy to finish strong.

Somewhere between miles one and two, things get bad. Body parts start to hurt and my ego’s like, “dude, why don’t you pull over, grab a latte, and stop this nonsense.” I have to work hard just to keep my body moving.

Around mile two, what I’ve dubbed my crazy gene takes control. At this point, it would take a pack of rabid ninjas to get me to quit running. Pain, discomfort, and all feelings of stopping rapidly recede as I train my focus on dragging myself across the finish line, no matter what.

Since starting this goal setting thing, I know the key to making it work is keeping my ego in check. Even though I’ve kept a goal list to keep myself on track, I decided a two month review to get a big picture overview of my progress was in order. Chris Guillebeau, does an annual review where he asks himself two questions:

          What went well this year?
          What did not go well this year?
 

I really like Chris’ questions, so using them here goes….

What has gone well so far this year?

Generating income is going well. I have a J-O-B working with people I really like and respect. I show up five days a week, six hours a day, and two times monthly they deposit money in my checking account. This makes me happy.

Paying off debt and building our savings back up is also going well. Even with the holidays, a costly repair to the van, and some significant pet expenses, we’ve been able to whittle down some of those pesky bills.

I went on a week long silent retreat. It was a much needed time of rest and reflection.

While strength training is kicking my butt, it is going well. I’ve stuck to a schedule of two work outs per week.

I made spending time with family and friends a priority and have spent focused time with my spouse, kids, and close friends. When someone asks for my attention, I do my best to give it.

Instead of going it alone, I’ve reached out to others for advice and help. It’s making a big difference.

What is not going well so far this year?

Sleep is not going well. I got horribly off schedule over the holidays and am still struggling to get enough rest each night. The net of this is that I’m tired during the day which of course effects everything else I’m doing.

Writing is not going well. Yes, I’ve continued to post weekly essays on my website, but very little other writing is getting done.

In spite of my overall fitness efforts, I’m not making progress as quickly as I want and this disappoints me.

Several side projects I’m working on are not progressing. My J-O-B and lack of sleep are hindering my ability to focus and get things done in my limited free time. Conflicting schedules makes it difficult to meet with people. This frustrates me to no end.

Self-care is not going well. I’m tired. I’m busy. Taking care of myself often gets shifted to the back burner.

For the next two months…

I’m remaining focused on generating income, paying bills, and socking away more savings.

I plan to continue to work with this wonky sleep issue. I’ve started drinking chamomile tea at night and am using a Blue-Lite in the morning in the hopes that this will help. In the meantime, I will be easy with myself.

I’m going to continue to write and post weekly on this site but will put other writing projects on hold for the short term.

I’m adding one weekly strength training session, three weekly stretching sessions, and increasing my daily cardio.

I’m making work on my “side” projects a priority and will focus my extra time and attention on them.

I’m choosing one self-care/stress relief routine from my tool-box and am implementing it daily.

Moving Forward

In the past, I would set goals for myself. Sadly, after a couple of weeks my goals would get shuffled around and lost in the busyness of day to day living. I’m trying to avoid that this time by talking to my accountability partner, writing down and tracking what I’m doing, reflecting on what has happened, and retooling as needed.

I’m impatient. I often feel like I’m not making any progress. Since asking myself these questions, I can see the tiny gains I’ve made and feel a teeny bit better. I just have to push through this middle part and make it to mile two and hope that the crazy gene kicks in before the ninjas show up. Then I’ll be ok to the finish.

What goals are you working on this year and what strategies do you use to stay on track? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to share in the comments below. If you’re feeling shy you know you can, pm me.

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Healthy Living Isn’t Enough

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Healthy Living Isn’t Enough

I didn’t like what I saw, I knew I wouldn’t. When I started on this quest to be healthier, I threw out the scale, literally. I turned my head at the doctor’s office. I really didn’t want to know. I had made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t worry about my weight. I would just worry about being as healthy as I could.

Over these past two plus years, I have made so many changes. I eat eight or more servings of fruits and veggies daily. I gave up Coke Zero and eat a lot less junk and fast food. I work out more consistently running, walking, and using weights. I buy organic whenever I can and have green juice or a smoothie every single day. I put lemon in my water and cinnamon in my decaf. I stretch and take my vitamins. I have eliminated almost all of the dairy and gluten from my diet. Oh, and I drink so much water, all of it filtered, of course.

I’m glad I’ve made these changes. I feel better. I have more energy. I ran a half marathon, for heaven’s sake. It hasn’t all been for nothing. Still with all these positive changes, I didn’t feel like I was loosing weight. My jeans were a bit tighter, so I bought a new scale, stepped on, and learned that after two plus years of healthy living I had actually gained weight. I’m pretty sure it’s not muscle weight. Frustrating.

I know I’m “older.” I know it’s harder for us “older” ladies to drop weight. I get that. I don’t really have a lot of weight to loose. In the grand scheme of things, if I stayed this weight for the rest of my life I would be fine. Really, I would. It’s just that I don’t want to be fine, I want to power into the second half of my life fit and energetic. I have stuff to do.

As all these thoughts swirled in my head, I realized that if I wanted to really get fit I’d have to stop playing around. Being healthy is great and good and I need to commend myself for all the hard work I’ve done over the past couple of years. But being fit, really fit? That obviously was going to take a whole other level of commitment.

I’ve read a plethora of books on health, diet, and fitness. I’ve spent way too much time trolling fitness sites. I’ve experimented. I had to admit that in spite of my efforts, I was missing something. I needed help. So, when a former work colleague, Mary Weaver, offered an online program titled Take Off Twenty Pounds, I decided to give it a try. She promised to offer tips specifically for the over forty set, a group of which I’m a part.

I had confidence that if anyone could cut through the clutter, it was Mary. Back in the day, when I was a punky college kid eating Krispy Kremes and drinking Coke like it was water, Mary was hitting the gym and tweaking her diet as she prepared for fitness competitions. Over the years, while I was having babies and praying for a decent nights sleep, Mary was earning certifications and coaching others to achieve the fitness results she had achieved.

As I worked through her materials, I learned that many of the changes I had made were spot on. According to Mary, for the most part, I was on the right track. As I further contemplated my situation; however,  in light of what Mary was teaching me, I finally came to a sad, sad conclusion.

If I feel anxious, I eat a handful of baby carrots. Whenever I’m stressed out, it’s almonds. If I want to avoid that stack of paperwork, I’ll have a sliced apple and nut butter instead.  Whenever I’m feeling a little sad or blue, a banana will ease my pain. If I’m irritated, aggravated, frustrated, then grapes will make it better. I had no choice but to admit the truth of the matter which is I’m eating my feelings.

According to Mary, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie and even though the calories I’m consuming come mostly from good healthy choices, at the end of the day, it’s just too many. So while I’ve been amping up my energy and bathing my cells in antioxidants, I’ve also been packing on pounds that I just don’t need. Sigh.

Having to admit this sucks, but the only way we can fix ANY problem is to open up our mouths and say what’s wrong, what’s bothering us, and what needs to be fixed…OUT loud. Sure, I could be coy and cute. I could blame my hormones or lack of sleep and some people would buy it hook, line, and sinker.  I could put on a billowy dress and sashay around the room and tell jokes to prevent people from counting my rolls of chub, but masking and distracting doesn’t make the problem go away.

If I learned anything in the past two years it’s this: ignore a problem and it’s just gets bigger (like my tush). Call a problem out, draw attention to it, and eventually people will stop ignoring and doing something to make it go away. Evil only grows and lurks in dark corners, shine a light on evil and it will wither and die.

The good news is that thanks to Mary’s program and a little soul searching on my part, I’m choosing to shine the light on the real problem: emotional eating. In the meantime, I’ll continue to eat healthy and work out and drink lots of water. I’ll implement of few additional weight loss strategies Mary suggests. Mostly, the next time I want to shove down my feelings by eating them, I’ll shine a the light on them  instead. I know the drill and  I’m not afraid.

Check out what I’ve affectionally dubbed Mary’s Chub-O-Meter for a sobering wake-up call. It’s a calculator developed by the US Navy to determine your lean to fat body mass. 

 

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