My Happiness Theory…

I was thinking last night about a time that I can remember really being happy and blissful almost for an extended period of time.  I was 18/19 years old, in the time before I met my first husband Memorial Day weekend years ago.  Of course, I didn’t have the responsibilities and challenges that I do today.  There is just something about being a responsible adult that seems to spoil your fun a bit and steals away that carefree feeling.  You have a career, mortgage, bills, payments, kids, aging parents, health issues, repairs, maintenance, and the list goes on and on.  You have fleeting moments of that carefree bliss, like when I married my husband in a fairy tale ceremony at an antebellum mansion in Lexington, Kentucky, but it wasn’t long until life came rushing back and crowded out the bliss with responsibilities, drama, annoyances, irritations and crises that seem to happen on a daily basis.

As I laid there staring at the white ceiling, I thought to myself but I have a good life!  Why do I feel so frazzled all the time?  I have so many blessings, I’m grateful for all that I have.  I’m financially secure with a good job, great co-workers/work family, my daughters are all healthy and doing well, my husband is great and and I’m fortunate to have a great network of extended family and friends.  I can do more now than I ever could before when I was younger and I have more opportunities.  While I am truly grateful, I do not have that carefree, happy, blissful feeling I once did.  Why not? I asked myself this question and started listed all the annoyances in my life.  The list kept growing so I finally decided to stop myself.

There are always those people who are trying to steal your happiness. Or are they?  In truth, I let them steal my happiness and I give them too much power in my life.  There is always something going on, some stressor.  Something breaks, something won’t work, something doesn’t go my way.  How much of this can I truly control?  Very little usually. Most of this is out of my power, my locus of control but I am far from helpless. I may not be able to control what happens to me or around me but I do have more control than I think.

So I realized that I have a choice.  I can let all these little annoyances and even big crises steal my happiness or I can let it go and just be happy, content and serene.  It all comes down to how I react to each day’s challenges.  I can react negatively or I can preserve my peace and surround myself in happiness.  This won’t work for every situation and it is not like I won’t have reasons to be sad, angry or hurt but how many times do I react when I could just take a deep breath and make the conscious decision that whatever this bump in the road is, do I react by getting upset?  Or do I just let it roll off my back and go on ignoring it to preserve a peaceful bliss?

I think that is truly up to me.  I’m going to try an experiment this next week and consciously choose to be happy.  I figure what do I have to lose right?  Maybe I will recapture my carefree bliss if I don’t let every wind spin me around into a negative cloud.  It’s in my own power to recapture being carefree, happy and blissful. It all comes down to my attitude and my outlook. I truly believe this.

Check back next week, I’ll update you on my progress.  Namaste.

Surprise! I’m Naked… Well Kinda….

The other week, I had been getting over a randy case of stomach flu.  I was worn out and tired to say the least from my many hours spent in our lovely downstairs master bathroom.  I really like my bathroom, with it’s cheery yellow walls, bright windows and nickel-toned accents. There is an even a piece of art from one of my favorite artists that one can ponder upon from the throne.  However, I really don’t think it warrants a whole day in there but my body thought otherwise.  Strangely enough, on Monday, as I recouped, I felt better than I have in months.  Odd, I thought.  More on that later.

So being drained and tired, the next day I basically went through the motions.  I went to work, did some shopping and all the things I normally seem to do.  Since I was feeling better, I was a little more chipper, chatted a bit more with my co-workers/friends as I went through the hall.  I was in and out of the bathroom, washing my hands without really paying attention to my reflection other than to make sure my pants were zipped as I knew I was struggling to get through the day.  The last thing I want is to be is wandering the halls with my barn door wide open.

Later that night, I was going through my nightly routine where I brush my teeth, remove my makeup and slather on the face cream that’s supposed to keep me from looking like an old bat too soon when I realized there was no makeup to remove.  I had completely forgotten to put it on that morning.  No matter what, even the gym usually and even riding my bike for hours on end, I prescribe to what I call my Basic 3.  Foundation powder, eyeliner (only the top lid when exercising) and waterproof black mascara (making sure I curl the top lashes for the ultimate ‘pop’).  My eyes are my favorite attribute as I’ve gotten more compliments and comments on them, well other than my boobs when they sprouted in sixth grade, than any other part of my body.  But here I was staring at my naked face.  Not even a stitch of foundation to cover the broken blood vessels in my cheeks compliments of my German heritage which I had burned out seven years ago and they just reappear.

I had been reading a book by Jennifer Farr Davis title Becoming Odyssa which is an autobiography chronically her first thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) when she was twenty-one.  While I enjoyed the details of her mostly solo-hike, it was her musings about being out in a place with no mirrors for weeks at a time.  That when she met people, she was stinky and dirty, with no makeup or even a shower most times.  People had to like her based on her personality rather than her appearance.  I thought about that for a few moments as I studied my face.  I decided that I would do the same thing the next day, go naked.  No makeup at all.

Well, not knowing I didn’t have makeup on was a lot different than being aware that I had none on.  When I didn’t know that I had forgotten the war paint, I was oblivious so I behaved in the same way and people behaved their same way back.  No one stopped and screamed in horror, “Oh my god, you have no eyeliner on today!” just before they turned and fled the building in disgust.  However, on the day I knew I didn’t have makeup on, I walked around feeling like I left my pants at home.  Self-conscious, uncomfortable and even though I know that no one else cared but me, I had to admit that makeup was a bit of a security blanket that makes me feel pretty.

Reflecting on the day in bed that night, I decided my idea to go an entire week without makeup was going to drive me batty so I decided to resume my normal makeup routine.  I don’t NEED makeup and I don’t wear much makeup but I like makeup.  To me, it is like accessorizing (which I do little of anyway) but my eyes do not have the same impact when I don’t wear makeup.  It’s like art for my face.  And it makes me feel a bit more confident.  Pretty.  It’s an enhancement not a way to hide from the world.

In closing, I believe I have a healthy relationship with makeup and so what if I wear pink sparkly lip gloss to the gym?  It keeps my lips moisturized and soft so I’m not thinking about god damn it my lips are chapped while I’m trying to workout.  Priorities right?

Solitude and the Outdoors, a Girl’s BFFs

Being outdoors is like a drug for me. I’m not sure why but the Japanese have done studies to prove that spending quiet, meditative time outdoors in the woods can ease stress and depression. I have to concede with these studies because the other day, I was feeling pretty down, the weather here in Ohio is not really conducive to keeping your mood elevated with it’s cold and dreary days. On a whim, I decided to drive to this park which is closed off to auto traffic November thru April and you can walk many of the winding roads without fear of getting hit.

I parked in my usual spot and realized I had forgotten the outer layer of my coat, leaving me only the fleece inner shell. I found my gloves and a scarf, so I made due. I figured once I started walking, I would warm up anyway. Out of habit, I stuck my headphones into my phone and took that as well. Except as I started walking, I heard the birds singing, the ones who are too crazy not to migrate somewhere warmer, and I could hear the creek’s waters rushing through the melting ice. The air smelled clean and sweet. I tucked my headphones into my inside coat pocket and left the music off. This wasn’t the gym, I wasn’t here to ‘workout’, I was going to enjoy my walk. Sometimes I get too focused on fitness to just relax and enjoy what I’m doing.

I walked past the picnic shelter where we had the last picnic with my mom before she got too sick to get out of the house. My oldest was going back to college and while my mom wasn’t feeling the best, we managed an impromptu outing. I walked by the spot down from the red covered bridge where most years, the kids and I threw down blankets so they could wade the creek and catch crawdads. In the end, they would count their haul, maybe watch a few of them ‘race’ and then the rule was to set them all free again in the creek. We’d all been so busy this last summer, we never had our crawdad catchin’ day. Though I think this past year none of us felt like going to the park.

I stopped on the covered bridge and watched the creek break through the ice that had started to melt. The bridge also acted as a windbreak which gave me a moment to pause in relative warmth. I’ve been dreading my husband’s upcoming weeks away for training for his new position at his company. Four weeks over four months. The last time he had a series of training weeks like this, my mom was still alive and I spent a lot of time with her while he was gone. Now I wouldn’t have her here. I was feeling anxious and alone though really I’m not alone. Then I thought maybe it is the fact I no longer have her to lean on. It’s an odd thing when it really hits you that you no longer have parents or grandparents. No matter how hold you are, which I’m mid-40’s, you realize how much of a support system your parent(s) was to you. Well at least for me, I can’t speak for anyone else.

There was no one in the park which allowed me to think and I made a mental list of all the other people in my life who are my support system. I’m not alone, I thought, things have just changed. Then it dawned on me, that I’m far from helpless. Actually when crisis arises, I’m usually the first one to jump in and take action unless my husband beats me to it. It is simply just in how you look at things, your perception. By shifting my thoughts from wow, my mom isn’t here, I am going to feel very alone when my husband is out of town to hey, I can rely on myself and I’ll be just fine, I have a lot of support. Once I got that thought into my head, I felt much more at peace with the upcoming months’ challenges.

I won’t enjoy being apart from my husband but I can make the best of that time. Focusing on my writing for one. I’m bad about starting to write and then getting distracted by a million things. One of which is constantly looking at email, Facebook and the like. I’ve realized my phone has become almost another appendage to my body. I almost never am away from it. It’s always within reach. When it’s not, I feel phantom pains and go looking for it. Rarely is there anything in there that is so important that I need to know RIGHT NOW. Most of it could wait an hour or even forever. I thought back at times in my life when I was way more focused and productive. Back in the days of the desktop computer so big that you had to have your own room for it. You couldn’t tote it around so you checked your email once or twice a day.

Now I rarely even open my laptop, doing almost everything from my phone or my tablet. It makes me wonder how much more I could do with my life if I cut out the distractions. How much more focused on what is actually going around me than having my face stuck into a screen? LIfe before smartphones and tablets. I faintly remember it like a flashback in a movie. I wasn’t like one of Pavlov’s dogs, drooling at every chime or alert to see what had just shown up in my proverbial bowl. So I’m going to start putting the phone down. Turning the wifi off on my tablet when I write, things such as that to see if I actually am more productive and maybe a bit more engaged. It’s too easy to lose yourself in an electronic world. Even my kids bitch at me that I’m not listening to them. “Gawd, Mom, it’s bad when your kid is complaining that you are on your phone too much and not the other way around.” It’s such a habit I don’t even realize I’m doing it. And maybe it’s time I disconnect more.

Disconnect and get outside, I think it’s a prescription for a more content life. Time will tell me soon, I’m sure.

Whatcha Lookin’ At?

Body consciousness. Self-consciousness. Feeling like everyone is looking at you, watching you, judging you. There is nothing like going to the gym to make one feel like they just walked into the first day of sixth grade at a new school. Awkward. The type of moment that can fill one’s nightmares.

I first joined our local YMCA after it opened fifteen years ago when I was thirty. I’ve been a member off an on over the years, mostly off the last six years. This past Saturday, I rejoined and went right into the fitness room elated that my favorite elliptical machine hadn’t been replaced with a newer model with the flailing handles for your arms. For me doing my legs and arms at the same time distracts me, too much going on. I was also thrilled to find that all my cycling really upped my fitness level and I set up my resistance as well as increased my time on the machine to almost an hour. But being a cardio machine that goes no where coupled with the fact I don’t really like watching tv while I work out, my mind wandered when I wasn’t covertly watching people working out or interacting. I’m a rabid people watcher, I can’t help myself.

I notice how people dress, silently wishing that they would outlaw white socks with black running shoes but mostly I just observe. Then I realize the machine I’m on is really out in front of the room, I’m highly visible to everyone and I have on tight black spandex capris with neon yellow stripes down each side of the leg that I purposely picked for cycling on cooler, darker days. For visibility. And visible I am, the big blonde beacon of ‘hey look at me!’. I had topped my flamboyant capris with a bright pink sports bra under a even brighter Barney purple fitted racer back tank. I hadn’t even bothered to coordinate my colors, I looked like a two-year old who was allowed to dress herself, in the dark.

But I realized, I had been oblivious to anyone paying attention to my carnival-like attire nor had I been worrying about what others might think of my body or how I looked (my hair was wild from slipping out of the hastily pulled up pony tail). It was the first time that I had walked into the gym not attired in my usual t-shirt that would be ginormous on my 6’3 husband and wearing pants or shorts that were at least one size larger than I needed, preferably two sizes larger. Nothing clingy on this girl. Someone might see a fat roll and you know life would end as we know it because the earth would cease to rotate on it’s axis. Or so it felt back then.

Sweat drips off of me, my tank top plagued with darker purple patches of fabric as I workout harder. I don’t care. I really don’t care that I’m wearing form fitting workout clothes because they don’t get in the way, I worked hard to be in the shape I am now which is never going to be perfect. I don’t care that my hair looks like birds have been living in it because I’m just going to go home and shower anyway. I don’t care if my ass is so big and jiggly that people are talking about it as my legs are pedaling furiously on the machine. I don’t care. I’ve reached that point in my life where I have started focusing on what I want and not what I think other people want.

I smile to myself as my eyes sting from the sweat that just rolled into them and I realize I am happy. Happy to be living my life for me. I’m not there working out to have a body that will attract men or be the envy of other women, I’m working out to be stronger, to ride better, to live better and healthier, to like how I look for me. I love the strong calf muscles all those miles earned me this past riding season. I like walking across the crowded gym and not feeling self-conscious. I like the self-confidence I feel and project because I’ve noticed much younger guys checking me out until they realize, I’m old enough to be their mother. Gotcha! Yeah it’s a bit creepy for me too, buddy, but flattering none the less. Either that or they are trying to figure out who dresses me… Most likely the latter, but hey, let me live my fantasy.

The sad part is all those years I spent hiding in the shadows. I notice my daughters have started adopting my I don’t give a shit what people think attitude. Maybe I’ll reach one or two people with this post. Stop wasting your life worrying about ‘other people’. Just enjoy it. Wear bright purple and neon yellow together, if it makes you happy. Always walk into a room like you own the place, even if inside you feel small or scared. What the hell? The world isn’t going to stop spinning on it’s axis, at least not over how you’re dressed or a fat roll is visible through shiny purple fabric.

Now go out there and be yourself, everyone else be damned! And if they stare at you too long, just smile slyly and say “Whatcha Looking at?” Then they will be the one who will feel small…

The Last Resort…

At 4:30 a.m. the other morning, you could find me in my dark living room, kneeling on the carpet with my forehead pressing into the rug in a yoga pose which is basically an upright fetal position. Since early November, I have been rudely awoken at 3:00 to 4:30 a.m. many days with sharp pain in my lower abdomen that radiates into my hips. Each time, I lose at least two hours of sleep as I wait for the pain to subside.

Late December, I saw my gastrointestinal specialist who prescribed me a medication that seems to exacerbate my condition once the medication wears off. I also was given the FODMAP diet which is supposed to relieve the painful symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which I have nicknamed the paper and cotton ball diet because it is gluten and lactose free with so many foods I can’t eat, that I’ve narrowed it down to a diet of paper and cotton balls. Even this has not made any difference.

I have been using a journal app to help me determine the “triggers” but other than the probiotic my doctor recommended to help (but it had the opposite effect), I have yet to discover what is really causing this. Desperate, I’ve been researching online and in books about IBS but it seems they know very little about it but I keep reading the same things over and over. The key word is “Syndrome” which means that there is really not a medical cause they can find.

As I read anything and everything I can find on IBS, stress, anxiety and depression seem to be the common thread. The gut/mind connection has been proven by scientific studies and they continue to explore this. Well, I thought, the last few years have been really hard. Depression runs in my family on both sides and I have had several major depressive episodes in the past. As I wait for the ibuprofen to kick in as I stay in the only pose that affords me a bit of relief, I start wondering if my problem is not so much what I eat but the fact that my body has been through extreme amounts of stress and grief and maybe it’s just worn out.

Since this started early in November, I wonder if the fact that I had pretty much quit riding the 50 miles or more a week was a trigger. I’ve been exercising steadily to deal with grief and stave off depression. For almost three months, my exercise routine has been minimal so I have not had the benefit of the ‘runner’s high’ so to speak from the vigorous exercise of cycling to help me combat stress and keep my body running well. Stress. I realized the two college classes I have starting in a few days are weighing heavily on my mind. I had just read where 60% of IBS sufferers also suffer anxiety and 20% of them deal with depression. In other words, I was a prime candidate for aggravated IBS symptoms.

Desperate for any relief, exhausted from night after night of interrupted sleep, I decided to drop my classes for now and focus on some serious self-care. My body is screaming at me but I haven’t been listening. Slow down, let me heal, it’s been a hard ride. Today I am going to sign up at the gym and start exercising almost daily to combat stress and depression. I just am unable to get in enough exercise riding my indoor rollers, etc. And I also need to pay attention to stressors. As well as making sure I eat well. One can not live on paper and cotton balls alone.

Will this work? I have no idea but it can’t hurt. My body is forcing me to step back and look at my life and make adjustments. Hopefully my theory is right because nothing else is working. Wish me luck!

2015 – Goodbye and Hello

With the dawn of 2015, I’ve decided to revamp my blog and go in a different direction.  For the past five years, this has been full of just whatever pops into my head, a lot of musing about the past and my life, working through issues such body image, reconciling my life, etc.  I’ve even changed my blog’s appearance to signify a new attitude so to speak.

After a very tough 2014, losing my mom, etc., I want to go in a more positive direction.  More focused on being mindful, living in today, looking toward the future and chasing my goals.  I want to bring more humor to my writing, chronicle my main goals of writing, being more artistic/creative, giving to others and cycling/fitness and whatever else I embark on this year.  I feel as if I have done a lot of work on myself through this blog but now I want to actually produce something for my efforts as well as share more of my photography.

I hope you continue to join me or start following me as I look at life differently a bit, more open and more happy and more positive.  It’s time to live some of the advice and epiphanies I have brought about in my former blog postings.  I’m excited about today and the future.

So come have some fun with me!  Or unfollow me because I’m suddenly nauseating you, your choice!